Friday, December 11, 2009

Group Picture Fun

I got the opportunity to shoot my company’s Christmas party Santa pictures. It' helps to have a great Santa and great subjects.


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This is the only shot that needs an explanation. There was a choir at the luncheon so I asked this nice young lady to point at the camera. I had a wider angle lens; I wanted to distort the perspective. 

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fun with clients - Amanda

I got to spend a very chili hour with a wonderful subject - Amanda.
We did a shoot at Joe Pool Lake outside The Oasis restaurant. Amanda was great, at 30 degrees she went shoe and coatless.


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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Five Mistakes People Make Taking Pictures

I know this is terribly earth shattering, but there are no perfect pictures. As a matter of fact the more you take pictures the more they seem to look imperfect. What's really happening is that your attention to detail is sharpening. I don't have a knack for detail in my life. I'm a bottom line kind of guy, which is not good if you do detail work. To increase my attention to detail I picked up photography. Among other reasons of course.

Today I wanted to share with you 5 common mistakes to try and avoid when taking pictures. There could be hundreds, but I'll focus on 5.

1. Avoid harsh light or mixed light if possible. In the picture below I shot this with a point and shoot digital camera. I didn't have my DSLR available. I made the error of shooting in partial sun and partial shade. Nary the two shall meet.

If shooting in this situation, try to shoot in all shade if possible. If you can't, move indoors or use something to shade the scene.

Bad shot

Better Shot

2. Shoot the subject. Almost goes without saying, but try to focus as much of what's in the frame on the subject. I see this less and less now that digital is all the rave. Old point and shoot cameras were hard to tell if you had the subject in frame so you backed up to get everything. Unfortunately, you got more living room wall than subject.

Correct this by getting close. If you are going to clip someone's face, clip the top of their head and not their chin. Fill THE FRAME!

Bad shot

Better Shot

3. Shoot from up high if possible. People look better when they don't look down. It has to do with their chin and neck. Most Americans have some weight. Avoid this problem if possible by having them look up. It stretches the neck up.

Bad shot

Better Shot

4. Get in line with the subject. Too many people shoot their children from their perspective. It loses something. Shoot children at their level. It actually helps you experience the picture as the child sees things and adds a level of interest.

Bad shot

Better shot

5. Straight on shots can get boring. Shooting the image in the same direction over and over bores the viewer. Change the angle at which you shoot. You can do this a number of way. My favorite is tilting the camera about 45 degrees.

Bad shot

Better Shot

Thursday, August 20, 2009

How to spice up your pictures

Lots of us take good shots. We do, we just don't know it. What I'd like to tell you is what a number of photographers do to make the pictures they take of you look better. And the better the picture the more sales they get. Right?

I'm going to take you through a sample picture process. That process is referred to as "workflow" in the "bid-ness". Workflow is taking an image and correcting pieces, parts or the whole to get a better finished product. It's what used to be known as "re-touching". Re-touching was difficult in that it dealt with a piece of paper and different airbrushing techniques or very inaccurate methods to correct or hide flaws.

I can't show you everything, but I'll show you a few things I do to make a good picture look better. Keep in mind that if you expose the picture properly and set the subject as the subject and are aware of what's going on in the frame, you usually don't have to do much to the picture. You really try to do as little as possible to the picture. The general rule of thumb is to remove problems BEFORE you shoot. We'll take one image and follow it through 3 things I do to give an image a better look. I'll be using Photoshop to do my corrections.

You can use just about any image editing tool. If you can't get your hands on Photoshop, tools like Paint.Net, The Gimp and Photoshop Elements have these basic features. In all of our examples, we will use the photo below. If you would like to download it and try the corrections I demonstrate, you can find it here.

Not a bad picture. The model is nice, the setting is not distracting, but it needs a little work. Let’s do 3 corrections on this image.

  • Color Correction
  • Dodge/Burn
  • Vignette

Color Correction

Let's face it, sometimes the lights or the fates or whatever work against you. Sometimes it can be the color of the subject's skin that can clash with the surroundings. Color correction is a way to get a good balance of rich colors. The first thing I'm going to do is try to correct the colors in this image. They look pretty good, but I want to take some of the yellow out of the model’s skin and balance the purple from the background.

First you open your image editing software and the image and immediately make a copy of the background layer. We always want to be able to go back to the original.

Now that we have a copy of the image ready to work with on a new layer, our first stop is going to be to go to edit the levels. In Photoshop and choose Images –> Adjustments - >Auto Levels. This will balance out the darks and light areas of the image. If you don’t like it choose CTRL + Z or on the Mac Command Z.

Now that our dark and light balance is good, let’s work on colors. I like to start with the Color Balance tool ( CTRL+B or Command+B on a Mac ). Color Balance works colors against each other. In our photo we want to reduce the yellow tone in the model’s skin.

For each setting at the bottom ( Midtone, Shadow and Highlight ) I’m going to bump up the blue just a tad. You;ll notice the wall changes too. If you don’t want to change the color of the wall you would use the Hue/Saturation tool. ( CTRL+U ) We could go on for days like this, but for now I’m going to stick with the Color Balance.



Here’s what we have so far. Our model’s skin is less yellow and the wall is a little more purple as it was in real life. We’re already seeing an improvement.




Now let’s tackle making the image more attractive to the viewer. What we are going to do is use an OLD technique that lightens or darkens small areas of the image. When you want an area lighter it’s called “dodging”. When you want an area to be darker it’s called “burning”. What we want to do is make the eyes and teeth brighter. Especially the eyes without making them look plastic. All I’m going to do is dodge around the eyes and once over the teeth. Our model has nice teeth and we don’t have to do much to correct there.

Select the  dodge tool,  image

At the top use the following settings as an example.



Now, with one pass, click and drag over the darker parts of the eyes:



It’s not much of a difference but it will make the eyes lighter and focus attention on the eyes.



A vignette is a way to isolate the subject in a way that mimics a camera darkening the edges of an image. Old images get darker toward the corners. New digital cameras don’t do that. We’ll use the mask tool. I’m not going to explain it too much but give you the steps.

1. Click “enter mask mode” on the tool bar

2. Choose the Gradient tool on the toolbar

3. Draw from each corner about halfway to the middle of the image.
A red gradient will appear – this is normal. Continue with each corner.

4. Click the exit mask mode

5. Press CTRL+SHIFT+i ( this inverts the selection )

6. Press CTRL + M
This gives you the curves options. Click about 1/3 of the way toward the top of the curve and drag up until you see some dark areas in the image. It will probably will look something like this.

Click CTRL+D to deselect the areas. You should have something like this.

Let’s take a look at the before and after.


Better colors, more focus on the subject.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rule of Thirds

I believe in sharing information about photography to my customers and those friends who read. Last time we looked at Depth of Field and how it relates to better pictures. This time, I want to focus on something that will make your pictures look much more artistic - the rule of thirds.

I have no clue why it's called a "rule" but it seems that we like a certain balance or imbalance in our images. We'll start by looking at a couple of images shot the way a good majority of people shoot images. ( thanks to my assistant and co-worker Lynn for helping me with these shots. )

You'll notice in this first shot that Lynn is centered in the image and fills the frame. Not bad. It's your typical, "Hey, let me take you picture for my scrapbook shot."

At this wider angle we see Lynn again centered in the frame. Not bad if you want to get the wall. ( We'll cover shooting the subject in another lesson.)

This is what a bazillion of your images look like in your photo albums I bet. Nothing wrong with them, but it's always the same shot with the subject in the middle.

The rule of thirds says ( from Wikipedia )

The rule of thirds is a compositional rule of thumb in visual arts such as painting, photography anddesign.[1] The rule states that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.[2] Proponents of the technique claim that aligning a subject with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the composition than simply centering the subject would.

This tension ads interest although I probably wouldn't call it tension. I'd rather call it interest from unbalance. Take a look at the shots below and see if you can notice a difference in interest.

Granted these aren't the most intersting portraits in the world, but they are more visually appealing.

How does this work?

What we are trying to do first is divide the potential image up into 9 equal size boxes like in the image above. Then we try to place the subject - our subject is WHY we're taking the picture - on those lines. We can frame the image portrait or landscape.

When we line up a shot, we mentally have been programmed to put the subject in the middle of the shot. Our thought is, "Get the subject at all cost."

However, if you look at a good many portraits you will notice many of them the subject is on this rule of thirds. Below are some images from the internet with the lines in them to give you an idea of where the subject falls in the rule of thirds.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Depth of Field Tutorial

I'm not only hoping that you will look at this blog and gain a greater appreciation for my work, but that I'll also be able to share some secrets of the trade with you. On the surface that may seem counter productive. Giving trade secrets away, but I'm not giving you ALL my secrets.

For starters, we'll do a short series on making your everyday pictures better.

Ever wonder why a paid photographer's pictures look .... uhhh good? It's because they have a grasp on a lot of simple concepts and they put them together.

One of those techniqus is depth of field.

Last night I got the chance to shoot two images of the same person at the same time. The only difference between the two pictures was that I changed the depth of field (DOF) or "F-Stop", on my camera. Well, that and my subject is 6 and she moved between shots!

In this first image, you will notice that this picture looks a lot like many of the pictures you take at home. It was shot at an f-stop of 22, which means the little diaphragm in the camera was about the size of a pin hole. It let in very little light, BUT, it captured tons of detail BEHIND my subject. The DOF ( of view ) is very deep.

As a result my subject is competing with the objects behind her - the curb, the shrubs, the flag poles and buildings behind her.

Now, take a look at this image. It was shot with an f-stop of f4. A much lower f-stop, which means the little diaphragm thingy is wide open letting in as much light as it can on this camera with this lens. As a result, my subject is sharp, but my background is blurry. I've effectively isolated my subject, but given you an idea of where she is, but they are not competing for attention.

The result is an image focused on the subject and not the surrounding.

The trade offs ...

If I was wanting to shoot a landscape I would not want a shallow DOF. Also, if I have multiple subjects at differing distances from each other I would not want a shallow DOF. Also, because we are letting so much light in with the f-stop thingy, we have to let the shutter open on our camera a longer amount of time. If we leave the shutter open longer we are more prone to what I call "shake" which is nothing more than a blurry image.

This makes sports at night REALLY hard to shoot because you want to get the football player ( stop his action ) catching the pass 20 yards from the sideline ( deeper DOF ), BUT you don't want to have the visiting fans in focus ( shallow DOF ). Plus it's dark and you have to slow the shutter speed down to let in light, AND they are moving ... I'm getting a headache. But those guys are good at what they do.

So how do I get a shallow DOF with my little point and shoot?

A typical point and shoot camera will have something called a "portrait" mode and on the little selection wheel you will probably see something like a lady with a hat. That seems to be the universal symbol for portrait.

To set a shot up with a simple digital camera, set to portrait

  • Give yourself as much room behind the subject as possible ( if there is a wall behind the subject it will be in focus, things farther away will be blurry).
  • Get your subjects as close together as possible and fill the view finder with the subject.
  • Try to shoot with light that is not too harsh, but not too dark that it fires your flash. If possible shoot in the shade if its the middle of the day. A flash requires the camera fire at certain parameters which could change your DOF.
See? Easy

Friday, June 26, 2009

Why Don't I Do Bowls Of Fruit?

I really like taking portraits. I have photographer friends who LOVE to take nature and bird images. I can't do that. I love taking pictures of people. They are all unique and fun in their own way.

This is a session I did with a family friend. They were wonderful. The setting was pretty and the time of year was great, but the family made it awesome.