Black and Blue
I was in Irvine, CA last night for the Westcott Pro Tour and this was one of the results from shooting at the event. We used the Westcott spider lights with the tri-flector and the new vintage backdrop from Westcott.
Herman Rodriguez was our mentor photographer for this shoot and he had alot of very good information on shooting portraits with a tilt to fashion. The point above everything else was “shape the light”. It was all about lighting and how lighting can make or break an image. It definitely got me thinking more about how I light my own subjects.
Tag Archives: technique
Black and Blue
Oh yeah.. baby loves video 🙂 So I finally bite the bullet and bought ProShow Producer by Photodex. I used some images from the Westcott photoshoot at Photoshopworld as a test for a quick and dirty slide show. I tossed this together without reading ANY docs, just ran the wizard, clicked around a bite and off we go. In less than an hour I had pretty much made this show which included finding music on the internet.
Now I need to really dig into the software. It can do so much like layers and masking on the slides. It’s a lot easier than Premier and I like the end results more than Animoto. A cool part is that it has a kick butt “create” menu panel. Anything you would like to export the show into is there. BlueRay, DVD, self contained EXE, Flash, Youtube, Facebook and more. Way cool and one of the best export panels I’ve seen for video like this. Right now I have it running in Fusion on my MacPro in a Windows XP image and it works just fine. It would be nice to have an OSX version but this is very workable for now.
- 10 Steps to Successful Video Blogging (socialmediaexaminer.com)
- The Best Geotagging Cameras (brighthub.com)
- Animoto gives your photos the Hollywood treatment (building43.com)
- Creating Free Online Slideshows with Animoto in the Classroom (brighthub.com)
- New Animoto Lightroom plug-in ships (blogs.adobe.com)
- A Conversation with Animoto’s CEO (freetech4teachers.com)
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.
- Westcott Does Us a Solid (strobist.blogspot.com)
Shooting flash in the broad daylight always seems to bother people for some reason. I think that people are afraid that it’s complicated or some black art that is impossible to master. Listen, flash is just a self contained light that is run by batteries. Nothing magically about it or really hard to understand. The light from a flash works exactly the same way sunlight works or any other light. It has color, it will drop off in intensity over distance (square inverse law) and you can shape it. Probably the biggest reason people are suspect of flash in the daytime is that most camera can not do it well so you get blown out images or the traditional “hot spot” in the face or it’s still dark even though the flash fired.
To really use flash in the daytime, get manual. Forget that you spent a large sum of money on a camera that can virtually think for it’s self, put the dial on M for manual and learn how to set things up the way YOU want it. When I learned to shoot film, there was a rule pounded in to our collective heads. It’s been somewhat forgotten now by the users of digital but it is called the “Sunny Rule of 16”. For a bright sunny day, set the camera to ISO (ASA) 100, shutter to 1/125 (1/100) and F16 on the lens. That will get you 95% there for a properly lit exposure in bright sunlight. Once you have that, you can adjust each parameter and work out the others pretty easily.
What we need to know is that when shooting flash on a sunny day (or any other time) is that your shutter speed controls the ambient light and that the aperture controls the flash exposure. Why? Because the flash duration can be something like 1/42,000 (1/128 power) of a second which is way faster than your camera’s shutter at it’s best. Even at full power, the typical small flash is about 1/2000 of a second flash duration. And when you are shoot at 1/250-1/320 sync speeds, the flash is still way faster than your shutter speed. Since aperture controls how MUCH light comes in, you can adjust the intensity of the flash by either opening or closing the blades. Wide open is more light in and stopped down means alot less light is coming in.
The shutter on the other hand controls how LONG the light will hit the sensor or film. Short shutter speed means less exposure and longer shutter means more exposure. So if the flash is 1/32,000 of second long, when your shutter is at 1/200 second, you will get how ever much flash light there will be in that 1/32,000 of a second. What you CAN adjust with the shutter is the AMBIENT light. Or in this case, how bright the daylight will be. Slow shutter means lots of exposure and a short shutter means less ambient light. In the two images below, I shot both with exactly the same shutter and ISO but I added a Neutral Density Filter X2 which works just like pushing the aperture to F22 ( 1 stop) which my 50mm can not do.
This shows how the aperture adjusts the ambient light while the shutter and ISO stayed the same. What does that mean for us with a flash? Well, all things being equal, you can dial in your exposure with the flash by tweaking on the F stop. Of course, you need to have some range to do this, about F5.6 to start would be nice and thats tough in broad daylight. But not impossible. Lets do some math 🙂
If I start at ISO 100 and 1/125 shutter with F16 and I want to go lower on my F stop, how can I do that? I can drop ISO which I can not right now and I can UP the shutter speed controls my ambient light. So I raise my shutter 1/250, thats one F stop and I can cheat a bit and go to 1/320 shutter, thats two full F stops. So now I’m at ISO 100, 1/320 shutter and F8. With a neutral desity filter X2, I can go down one more F stop to F 5.6 which is right where I want to be. My exposure has not changed from the first set at ISO 100, 1/125 and F16. So now I have less depth of field, I have about 3 stops to work the ambient light to darken skies etc.
So this means that I have the ability to dial down the sky and use my flash to light up my subject even though it’s high noon or if I want a bit more drama at sunset. OK.. ok.. so enough about this ambient light stuff, how do we use a flash? Pretty easy when you think about it. When you have the ISO at 100, the shutter at 1/125 and F16 for your aperture, the typical small flash like the SB800 needs to be eight feet away and full power to give the proper exposure.
You can see that we can easily light up the subject with an SB800 from about 8 feet away. But what if we wanted to use less than full power? Or get depth of field? Easily done by juggling the parameters. Lets bring the flash in to about 4 feet and cut the power to 1/2. Nothing else has changed. ISO, Shutter and F stop are still the same. I did zoom in a bit tighter so you can see the lighting closely.
Now what if I wanted to darken the background a bit more. Remember, ambient light is controlled by my shutter so I will raise my shutter one stop to 1/320 which is about the max I can go with my wireless triggers before I start cutting off the image with the shutter shadow.
You can see the exposure of the subject is the same but the background went a bit darker. So now what happens if I use one of those plastic diffusers? The kind that comes with the SB800 and snaps onto the front? Well, it means I can move my flash way in close and get softer light since the size of the light source relative to the subject has gotten alot bigger than when it was 8 feet away. I’m still at 1/2 power, broad daylight with the same shutter and ISO settings. Just closer and with the diffuser.
You can easily see that the diffuser eats a fair amount of light. But the tradeoff is that you can get much better quality of light when you are so close like this that it’s a pretty good trade off.
I hope you can see from the images that understanding daylight use of the flash is not that hard once you keep some basic rules in your head. It’s not very magically but it is very useful. These images are just simple demonstrations of the ideas but I will be putting up some real portrait work later using these same ideas. So get out there with your flash and light something up.
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The vendor, Westcott, sell various lighting and light modifiers to photographers and studios. They are a constant vendor at Photoshopworld and other Photography related shows. One of the most popular features of their booth has been the model shoot where a rep will demo product using a live model and then allow photographers to try their hand at a fast shoot using the same setup and equipment.
I think they just raised the bar in a big way by having four “sets” set up where they had live models and at times a still life available to shoot using the Westcott equipment. There were simple rules, you could not touch the model or the lights but you could direct the model on how you think a pose might work. This time you can submit your final images to be a possible catalog cover.
Popular? You bet!!! They had photographers coming out of the woodwork with everything from the high end Canon/Nikons to the cell phone with any number of camera in between. it was amazing to shoot and even more so just to watch. It was pretty clever in a way since you can only really make the photograph yours by model position and post work. Since the lights were fixed, you had to move the model to change the mood and you had to use some solid techniques in post to “fix” things like lights being in the image, fashion model fixing, getting rid of backdrop seams and so on.
Here are some of my shots along with a description of what I had to do in post to get to the finished or close to the finished image. Most of what I did to these images is not much different than what I do in my wedding shoots or portrait sessions here in my studio in Orange. When I shoot, many times I know when I take the shot, that I will need to do something in post like removing something or enhancing the bride and so on. Sometimes I make a mental note that a certain picture will need something specific because I know it’s a cool shot but needs editing to make it cool.
Here is my Catwoman shot in the raw. No retouching, no post of any kind except to convert it from camera RAW to JPEG to post here on my blog.
You can see from the above shot that there is quite a bit of work needed in post to make a usable image. There is a light in the upper left, the bike is on carpet, the background is too short and does not touch the carpet just to name a few things. Here is the final version or very close to my final version of Catwoman
I edited out all the extra stuff like the lights and reflector panel. I used content aware fill and free transform to stretch and edit the background. I used the Lightroom Graduated Filter with a blue tint to darken and add mood to the background. I added a concrete texture to the carpet to make it look more like asphalt. I did a fair amount of selective burning in like the front rim of the bike which was too bright. I tweaked the intensity to get the deep reds and dark blacks. I added a dark vignette around the image to help blend in the transition between backdrop and carpet. I think it turned out pretty well 🙂
In the next shot, we have a retro looking “Pin Up Queen” but we need some work here too. There is a red fabric that is competing for attention, we have tattoos on the model and we have some unsightly bulges on the bustline and arm.
And here is my final image after using several tools and some hand work.
I used liquidify to smooth out the bustline and arm. I used Portraiture to smoothout the skin and give a glamor look to the over all image. I removed the red sash hanging down in the background and I removed the tats showing on each arm.
Here are some of the rest of my shots from the Westcott model shoot. Westcott even had a couple of still lifes for those who do not like shooting people. As you can see, many times you need good post processing to really bring out the best of a picture whether it be a still life, a fashion shoot or even a wedding. I’ve seen good images with bad post processing and they just do not work well. I’ve seen marginal images but with excellent post processing and they work pretty well. Taking the shot is just one step to having a killer image as the final result. Ansel Adams was a master of this and understood clearly that the raw image was only the first step to showing the world your vision.
Thank to Westcott for putting all of this together and letting the photographers have alot of fun over the past three days shooting gorgeous models on fun sets.
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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.
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.
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.
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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Photoshop or your editor of choice actions can help you cut time corners to make a better end product like blog entries. Say what? Oh yes, you can adapt tools normally used for a task like making albums into a killer tool for making story boards for blogs or displays or whatever else comes to mind. I just used my favorite album software from Fundy to make a batch of story boards for my blog here. Yes I could buy actions to do this but I wanted to see if I could do something close on my own with Photoshop.
I already have a couple of flavors of album making software, LumaPix, You Select It (YSI) and FundySOS Album builder. Since I’m on a Mac, I prefer to use Fundy Album builder. While LumaPix would do a really nice job, it’s Windows only and I need to start up XP just to make these. It’s more work then I want right now. Fundy means I never leave my workflow. This is not intended to be a review of Fundy’s software but suffice to say it’s pretty powerful and is adaptable to virtually anything that requires arranging images, not just wedding albums.
Here is a sample of a three by three story board of a shoot in Colorado that I shot last year. I tossed together in Fundy Album builder in a few minutes. Not only can I make the grid but I can save it as a design then load it back up and automatically fill the grids or fill them by hand. It can takes less than 5 minutes to make the entire grid and fill it this way. And I just have to insert ONE picture into the blog instead of a dozen or more.
And it does not have to be squares, it can be any shape I want, singles, squares, grids, puzzles and more. Also, this is not just for blogs, this technique of story boarding or building paneled images can be sold to a client or used in an album or picture book. So the time invested in making the templates can be time well spent. And yes, I had to buy the software but I had bought it to make my wedding albums so now I’m using the same software for two or three other uses without having to buy anything else. That is money saved and in your pocket.
Here is a type of grid that is called a “puzzle” with several images from a local coffee house in the city of Orange called Chapman Coffee. My business, Michael Sweeney Photography, had some art hung on the walls there for a while and I had taken pictures for their website. Now I’m using them to illustrate a second type of collage that you can put into your blog by using album building software. I started with a blank canvas set to 1024 pixels square and used Fundy’s Album Builder Ninja layout and CS4 to make the puzzle. You can of course, make the squares manually using just Photoshop.
And you can take a single picture and use the panels as a design element. Use a strong picture and add a bit of space between the sections and you get a very cool effect. In this case, I made a quad panel and used a picture of a 1957 Chevy Bel Air automobile that I shot at the “Cars and Coffee” car show in Irvine, California. This image of the car works well spread across the four panels with a visual break between each panel and gives an idea for a wall hanging upsell to the client.
If all this is cool but you either dont have existing tools like FundySOS or you just dont want spend the time to mess around with Photoshop, then you can buy actions from a variety of places such as MCP who has the “Blog It Boards” among others. The actions give you a very fast way to get started on this type of presentation of your images. You can find some free ones at coffeephotography.blogspot.com but keep in mind that free is good, sometimes paying for something is better.
So the take away is that for your blog, instead of fighting with posting a dozen images which can also be swiped, make a storyboard of them and post that. Everyone gets to see the pictures, admire your artistic skills in layout and you can shave time off the editing of your post. You can also incorporate your album software or actions into your workflow as design elements.
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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!!!
Right now I’m watching a three day treat with Zack Arias called
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 🙂
So i have been playing around with a “hybrid high key” look that I like on certain images. I originally did it as the result of salvaging a “eh” picture but I really liked the look. So I worked out how to take my history of the image and flip it to be a preset. Not only that, but the preset works pretty on other images with some minor tweaks.
My first image was a happy accident but this one is the result of my new preset plus some extra work in photoshop to really dial it in. I applied the preset then loaded it up into CS4 to paint in some color, apply some blur with a mask so I could even out tones, fix the eyes using MCP eye doctor actions and painted in some eyelashes.
Now I had the look I wanted, how could I save the look and use it on future images? I need to make a preset for Lightroom. So I created the preset and then I needed to test it on other images. Now the question was could I get the preset to work on a picture of a different tonal range? Here is my original image. You can see she has dark hair and darker skin than my first model.
So I apply the new preset and tweak a few things like the vignette and the exposure a touch. And this is what I came back with.
I’m pretty happy with the results so far. My new preset gets me within 80-85% of where I want to be with the image and I just need to fine tune the development of the image to bring it exactly to the point I want. The Photoshop edits are a topic for another blog post 🙂
Now, how did I actually make the preset? I used Lightroom 3’s history panel. I made all my adjustments and then made a snapshot of the history.
Once I had the snap of the history, I highlighted the new snap and I went to the preset panel and clicked on the + sign to make a new preset. It’s that simple.
But, you can also see that the whole process of making snapshots and presets can be a VERY powerful aid to your workflow. You can make a preset of virtually anything you can do in Lightroom and use as much or as little of the settings as you want for the preset. In my case, I unchecked a few things like lens corrections since I’m not always shooting with the same lens.
Now just what is in a preset? A preset for Lightroom is just a text file that has all the settings that Lightroom will apply to the image when you “develop” it. These changes are non-destructive which is why you have these text files. If Lightroom had been made several years ago, they would have edited the image directly which is why some of us have alot of copies of the same file scattered around because you never, ever edited the original. This way is much better! Here is the contents of a preset file. I have hightlighted in yellow a couple of setting we all know and love. Both of which I changed in my development of the preset. This file captures those changes and will apply them each time I apply the preset.
Now I can make any image more or less the same using this preset. I dont have to try and remember how I did it or guess at the settings. I can apply it to one image or to many images at once. I can apply it at import or at a later time if I choose. As I said, presets are a very powerful tool for your workflow in Lightroom.
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.
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.
The sharpness has been dialed down to let me run the noise clean up, then I reapply the sharpness as needed
color noise +27
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.
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.
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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