The Greatest Post-Processing Tool

I often get asked if there is a certain way of achieving a particular look in a photo. How to make colors and people “pop”? How to properly color correct? How to make the skin blemish free? While there are lots of different ways to post-process photos using tools like Lightroom and Photoshop, the most powerful tool in any visual artist’s arsenal is typically forgotten – your eyes!

Wall

We perceive the world around us by looking and observing things, people, lines, etc. Ever wondered why diagonal lines, curves and specific object placement are pleasing to most people, even to those who are not involved in art? That’s because every brain comes pre-equipped with some tools that help us visualize what looks good and what doesn’t. These visual tools are already there, but they might not be fully “activated” by you. How would you do that? With lots of training, learning, patience and interest in your craft, it is just a matter of time. There is no shortcut, no magic bullet.

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How to Photograph a Solar Eclipse

I intentionally waited on posting this article on photographing a solar eclipse until it actually took place on 05/20/2012, because I wanted to document my experience and provide information on what challenges I had during the process of photographing this rare, but stunningly beautiful phenomenon. This was my first time trying to photograph a solar eclipse; in fact, it was my first time seeing one take place. Yes, there have been solar eclipses before, but I have been missing them all for some reason. This time, after I heard it on the news a week ago, I decided to watch it with my family and document the event with some photographs. While we in Denver were not as lucky as some folks in US southwest, Japan and a few other places to see the total solar eclipse, the partial eclipse still looked beautiful. Unfortunately, clouds moved in and blocked most of it for us here, but I still was able to capture a few shots when the clouds cleared up a little. I will be sharing those photos with you in this short tutorial. Hopefully when a solar eclipse takes place next time, you will have some useful information on how to photograph it with your camera.

Solar Eclipse

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Finding Ideas for Your Photography

At one point or another, we all stall. Whether it is because we are drowned by our daily routine or because we simply lose interest in doing what we love. We stall and it’s not quite that simple to get back on track. On the contrary, we dig ourselves deeper. We sit cozily in front of our computers, read about gear and people we admire. Why do we admire them? It’s because they keep on doing while we stall, while we stay put and touch nothing unless absolutely necessary. It’s because they do everything we don’t.

So how about you stop doing nothing? It’s time to start admiring yourself, because you can be just as creative and successful as anyone else!

1) Go (to) Places

Matthew Jordan Smith, one of the best known Beauty, Fashion and Celebrity photographers in the USA, once said you should never, ever stop yourself from going somewhere. It doesn’t really matter if it’s an exhibition you don’t want to visit, or a free concert that you would rather avoid even if the band paid you to come. The reason is simple – we get ideas by experiencing. As long as you keep an open mind, you never know just what can throw some crazy, amazing idea at you – it could be the hairstyle of the lead singer, or a piece of art you don’t understand in the exhibition. Maybe, on your way out, you will bump into a ballet dancer and hurt her ankle, which will obviously make her very angry, as she had a rehearsal planned in an hour, which will push you into photographing angry performers. Or flying dogs. Maybe she will swear at you so violently, you will make a series of photographs about two-faced people. You never know just what will make that awesome idea pop up in your head. It could be something completely irrelevant, but if you’re not out there, one thing is sure – nothing will happen.

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Mastering Lightroom: How to Use the Tone Curve Panel

In this short tutorial I will show you how to use one of the easiest and most powerful tools found in Lightroom – the Tone Curve. In my previous tutorial about black & white conversions, I briefly showed you how to use the HSL Panel’s Luminance section to control the lightness of separate colors of the image. Using the Tone Curve Panel is very similar as it also allows you to control the lightness and darkness of various parts of a given photograph, however, rather than altering separate colors, the Tone Curve tool controls certain ranges of actual tones in the image.

What Is It?

Tone Curve Explained

The Tone Curve represents all the tones of your image. The bottom axis of the Tone Curve is the Tone axis: the line starts with Shadows at the left-most end and ends with Highlights in the right-most end. In the middle you have Midtones, which are then further split into darker Midtones, called Darks in Lightroom, and brighter Midtones, called Lights. In other words, going left to right, the curve starts with Shadows, Darks, Lights and ends with Highlights. You can also see the corresponding range shown to you by Lightroom once you hover over a specific slider under the Tone Curve, in the Region section of the Panel. The Y axis represents lightness of a given tones. The tones get darker as you move lower and brighter as you move up the axis.

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Mastering Lightroom: Branding and Customization

Lightroom is an amazing program with a myriad of great features to improve the look of your photographs. In addition to all the image editing and cataloging tools, Lightroom also has some cool built-in features to make it a little more personal. In this short tutorial, I will show you how to brand and customize your favorite RAW converter. A little :)

1) Identity Plate

You can brand your copy of Lightroom for your photography business by inserting your logo to the top left corner of the software through the “Identity Plate” setup. You can get to the “Identity Plate Setup” by clicking on Edit -> Identity Plate Editor. Make sure to check the “Enable Identity Plate” checkbox, otherwise you will see the default Lightroom logo at the top left of the window. In the editor, you can either use a stylized text Identity Plate, or a graphical Identity Plate.

How Does It Look - Text Stylized text Identity Plate allows you to input any text you want to show at the left side of your Modules Panel. Use the drop-down menus to set the font, style, size and color of any text (or a part of it). Using text makes it very easy and quick to change the Identity Plate at any time.

How Does it Look - Graphical Using Graphical Identity Plate allows for more flexibility – you can turn any image into an Identity Plate. Using PNG instead of JPEG format offers transparency, which, again, helps you make your logo blend in better with the graphical interface of Lightroom. One thing you need to be aware of is the height of the image you want to use – keep it at about 50-60 px, otherwise Lightroom will not fit it in the narrow Modules Panel.

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Mastering Lightroom: How to Use the Basic Panel

Lightroom has many features that can easily confuse those who are new to it. While the program offers plenty of different editing opportunities, in order to achieve the best results and user experience, it is important to understand the very basics of Lightroom. In the series of upcoming short articles, I will try to explain each of the most important Panels in Lightroom, so that in the end, you will find it to be a simple, quick and easy to use software for your post-processing needs. Lets start with the Basic Panel.

Where to Find It

Lightroom Panel List

The Basic Panel can be found in the Develop Module right bellow the Histogram display at the top-right side of the screen. Expanding the panel will reveal a number of basic controls offered by Lightroom. These controls show you the most obvious benefits of shooting in RAW, such as White Balance and Exposure Compensation adjustments. Lightroom was developed with a left to right, top to bottom editing workflow in mind. While in some cases you will find yourself going back and forth between the settings, we will try to stick with that order at this time.

Tip – if you left-click the top of any Panel while holding down the Alt key (for Windows users) or the Option key (for Mac OS users), Lightroom will go into Solo Panel mode and only keep one Panel open at a given time (for example, if you had Tone Curve Panel open and then click on Detail Panel, the Tone Curve Panel will then close). This allows for a more tidy experience, especially if you often find yourself scrolling through the right-side Panel List. Clicking it again the same way will return Lightroom to previous state. If you want to open another panel without closing the previous one in Solo mode, Shift-click it. Ctrl(Command)-click a panel to open/close all.

The Settings

1) Treatment

The very first setting you can change in the Basic Panel is the Treatment of the image. You have two settings – “Color”, which is set by default and keeps your image in color, and “Black & White”, which, as I have mentioned in my B&W Portrait tutorial, is a great way to start working on a B&W look of your image if that is your intent.

2) White Balance

Sometimes the Auto WB setting on your camera may pick the wrong value, or you might choose a wrong one yourself. These settings are there to make sure that the color captured in your image is correct no matter how the camera was set when you took the picture, so if the image is too blue or too orange, you can easily correct it.

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Have Fun While Working

I’ve always found photographing engagement sessions and weddings to be rather stressful for both the couple (and the guests, too) as well as myself. But stress, at the same time, has proven to be the force that makes me want to do as well as I can. I get over it, eventually, because I have an obligation to do my best. My couples, on the other hand, sometimes have a harder time getting over their nervousness just as fast. The trick is in keeping it fun for them until they’re as comfortable with you around as if they were alone.

Kissing CoupleKissing Couple

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The Significance of Depth, Background and Color in Storytelling

We as photographers often make the final call on deciding the life span of an image according to our own perception, imagination and expertise. As much as we should be open to constructive criticism, I have always thought our own satisfaction from a photograph should come first. My own self-criticism is always the deciding factor on where I take my craft going forward. While those creative juices affect what I do behind the camera, knowing the technical aspect of photography to give life to any idea is very essential. It can take the story telling ability to a whole new level. Being able to analyze each shot before it is taken eventually will become a second nature as you photograph. I hope the below steps will help you get there a little faster.

Shallow depth of field

Depth

Mastering the depth of the story and being able to translate it into a visual prospect is very important, so it certainly helps to have a solid understanding of how depth of field can affect your images and the story you are working on. Whether it is a portrait or a landscape shot, the right amount of bokeh should be able to transport the viewer into your story. You can choose a longer lens with a large aperture (small depth of field) to pinpoint one element in an image that your viewers could concentrate on, or use a small aperture (large depth of field) to portray the melting pot of action, with many elements to the story.

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Diseases That Plague Photographers

Photography is an art meant to invigorate our creative side and facilitate our ability to see our world in new and interesting ways. Many books, articles, tutorials, and blogs focus on various aspects of the artistic and technical merits of photography. Rarely discussed, however, are some of the strange maladies that afflict photographers. There are the occasional whispers and, “Did you hear about Joe?” types of exchanges, but all too often, such problems are rarely acknowledged and dealt with openly.

In an effort to bring such diseases to light, Dr. E.X. Posur, a leading psychiatrist that specializes in treating photographers, highlights a number of common illnesses he has encountered, and their associated symptoms and treatment. Although described individually, they are all part of a common illness labeled “photographus excessivitis”. Rarely will a photographer exhibit symptoms a single disease. Close examination almost always reveals multiple afflictions.

Diseases that plague photographers

It is important to point out that professional photographers rarely deal with these illnesses, but those that wear the label, “serious amateur” bear the brunt of these diseases. Because professionals have been inoculated by the need to earn a living, they seem to have built up a strong immunity to the diseases outlined in this article. Though they appreciate the merits of their equipment, professional photographers see their equipment as tools to achieve an end, not an end unto itself. This subtle, but critical, difference between the professional and the serious amateur prevents the former from acquiring many of illnesses outlined below. Professionals are not totally immune, however, and can succumb as quickly as any serious amateur if they are not careful.

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Tips on Photographing Wedding Formals and Group Portraits

Photographing formals during weddings can be very tiresome and stressful to all parties involved. It’s the part of the day both the guests and the photographer often want to get past as quickly as possible. Friends and family want to enjoy the cocktail with others. Bride and Groom are tired from standing far too long and a looking forward to get some rest before the reception. Could anyone blame them?

Family Portrait

On some occasions, I have been even asked to skip the formals in hopes of avoiding guests from stress and chaos, which sometimes can happen during the formal session. While not everyone might enjoy this experience, it is also understood that taking formal pictures is an essential part of wedding photography. This is how the memories are preserved. This is a precious way for a bride to remember her family for many, many years to come; in her happy state. So, the challenge remains for the photographer to make sure that the time allocated for the formal portraits is spent efficiently and as quickly as possible. In the eyes of the wedding guests, a photographer is a miracle worker, control freak and a very sweet person who can turn a very difficult session into something magical. So, my dear magician friends, let’s get on to it. You are the expert and what do you do next?

There are steps you can take to achieve your goal and have everyone happy on your watch. Your first step would be to make sure that the watch doesn’t go over 30 minutes for any formal session.

Bride with her mom

1. Talk to the bride and groom before the wedding. Do your research and get to know your subjects earlier. Let’s admit that there is no way for you to get to know so many people at once. So, start early and talk it up with the bride and groom during the consultation session. Find out what their expectations are towards the formal portraits and how many people might participate in those. Sometimes it is easier to get a list of the family members who ought to be photographed alongside the bride and the groom. Ask the bride to inform her relatives that there will be a point during the wedding (if the exact timing is known, that would be more helpful) when they will be asked to get photographed. Keeping everyone informed will help you gather people around efficiently. Always make sure to ask the couple if there is anything you need to know about their families and have a strategy worked out to take care of any potential problems.

Usually, close family make it obvious for you to notice them. Walk around them, be a regular guest and interact with them before the formals, so that you are “familiar” to them. Let the guests talk and meet and have fun while you steal a few of them to get photographed. This way, everyone can be engaged all the time by either you or by other guests. It will only help you get those sincere emotions naturally, with much ease.

Also, keep in mind that you do not have to fit every single guest into a formal session. Friends and distant family members can be photographed all along the wedding reception and cocktail hour.

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