Are You Afraid to Ask?

We rarely get to see extraordinary people in our everyday lives. Have you had one of those moments when you saw a stranger that you really wanted to take a picture of? I am sure you have. So what did you do? Did you just photograph the person from afar without them knowing, try to talk that person into being your 30 second model or perhaps you might have tried to sneak up and take a picture? Or even worse, maybe you did not take a picture at all? I guess it has to do with our personality. If you are of shy type with a low confidence level (often a photography rookie), you might be even afraid to ask. That dreaded “No” can be quite discouraging to say the least and many of us don’t even bother to ask for that very reason.

I once asked a big tattooed guy to take his picture, because he had a very colorful outfit that looked very interesting with his tattoos. With plenty of anger on his face, his response was that he would break my camera if I even tried. Oh well, not everyone is approachable for sure! It certainly sounded very discouraging, but did it make me give up on asking? Of course not. I have asked many people since then. And I have photographed many of them, some of which later became my clients.

While doing a short photo walk with the Canon 5D Mark III in Disney Downtown, I came across an Italian guy, who danced away to tunes played by local artists. His dancing was not very good (meaning, he is not a professional dancer or anything), but the way he was dressed and he moved attracted a lot of people:

Street Dancer (1)

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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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Selective Color Correction in Lightroom and Photoshop

In my previous Lightroom Dodging and Burning Tutorial I chose a photograph that had multiple issues. I addressed most of them in that tutorial but specifically left out one major issue (which was quickly discovered by one of our readers) to be a subject for fixing selective color in Lightroom and Photoshop. If you take another close look at the photograph I chose in that tutorial, the face of the model is visibly brighter than the color of the rest of her body. While in many cases our facial color tends to differ from the rest of our body, it can look rather awkward in photographs. Especially in this particular photograph, it is obvious that the foundation on model’s face did not match to rest of her skin color.

If you have photographs like these, there are multiple ways of fixing them and these two methods could be used for a variety of other things. So, follow along to find out how I deal with such issues. First, I will show you how to do it in Lightroom, then I will also do the same in Photoshop.

1) Selective Color Correction in Lightroom

Thanks to Lightroom 4′s selective white balance correction, fixing colors in a certain area is a very easy and straightforward process. Start out by using the Adjustment Brush and painting the affected area. In this case, I carefully brushed the model’s face without touching her eyes and mouth. A quick tip: if you accidentally over-brush, do not forget that you can simply press and hold the “Alt” key, and the “+” sign in the adjustment brush will turn to a “-” sign, which indicates that you can erase the over-brushed area. Keep holding the “Alt” key and carefully un-brush the area that you do not want to touch. Here is my selection:

Lightroom - Adjustment Brush

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Lightroom Dodging and Burning Tutorial

This is a simple tutorial on how you can utilize Lightroom tools to Dodge and Burn selective areas of a photograph to your liking without using Photoshop. During the process I will also go through some simple steps to show how you can enhance an image directly in Lightroom. I chose a sample portrait to show the process, because I often rely on Lightroom to do most of my post-processing work.

So, what is dodge and burn and where did these terms come from? Here is what Wikipedia says about it:

Dodging and burning are terms used in photography for a technique used during the printing process to manipulate the exposure of a selected area(s) on a photographic print, deviating from the rest of the image’s exposure. In a darkroom print from a film negative, dodging decreases the exposure for areas of the print that the photographer wishes to be lighter, while burning increases the exposure to areas of the print that should be darker.

The same technique can be used in digital photography to achieve similar results, although in Lightroom you can take the process even further by opening up shadows delicately and manipulating the exposure of certain parts of a photograph without ruining any details or colors. It goes without saying that working with RAW images gives a lot more opportunities to recover lots of details, as explained by Nasim in his RAW vs JPEG article.

Here is the before and after comparison of what I have done to demonstrate the Dodge and Burn capability of Lightroom:

before and after

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Nikon vs Canon vs Fuji in a Studio

I have been super busy working on a couple of big projects lately and this weekend I helped out Lola with her bridal work. While setting up the lights, I decided to try out and shoot with three different cameras – the Nikon D800 (see the recently published review of the Nikon D800), the Canon 5D Mark III (a full review is coming up in a couple of weeks) and the Fuji X-Pro 1 (also coming up for a review soon).

The Nikon and the Canon experience was very similar, both were stellar in terms of color, sharpness and autofocus accuracy. The Fuji X-Pro 1 produced beautiful images with great-looking skin tones, but was rather disappointing in terms of autofocus – it just could not seem to lock well to my subject in indoors environment. I will be writing about my overall impressions of the Fuji X-Pro 1 soon, but to give you a short version, I am rather disappointed by it. To be honest, I was more excited about the Fuji X-Pro 1 than I was with the Canon and Nikon cameras, because I was really hoping for a mirrorless camera that could be a great alternative to the higher-end APS-C sensor DSLRs. The Fuji X-Pro 1 just seemed to have so much potential… I guess it will be a while until we see something that good. Perhaps the second or third generation of the X-Pro? Or the upcoming Canon mirrorless?

Here is a fun game for you – all three of the below images were shot with either the Nikon D800, the Canon 5D Mark III or the Fuji X-Pro 1. Care to guess which one is which?

Nikon vs Canon vs Fuji #1

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Reach Out and Touch…

Somebody’s hand
Make this world a better place
If you can

- Nickolas Ashford and Adele Simpson
Performed by Diana Ross

As photographers, we are bombarded with messages urging us to see the world through our own eyes, or find our “unique vision”. Apart from the photo club outings and occasional seminars, photography is primarily an individual pursuit. And as we all know from Diseases That Plague Photographers and other articles on Photography Life, photographers can be a bit consumed (ok – downright obsessive!) with their equipment, and have extremely strong opinions concerning it!

Along your photographic journey, however, I would suggest taking some of life’s detours, which include using some of your equipment and gifts to make a difference in the life of others. The opportunities are many and cost little, if anything, but can be worth their weight in gold to both you and those you choose to help. They also provide the chance for you to experiment and sharpen your skills in fun, low stress environments. Don’t be surprised if you experience some memorable moments along the way.

Don’t Leave Someone Out of the Picture

Whether it is a single mom or dad out with their child, a grandmother and her granddaughter, or simply a larger group, someone is usually left holding the camera, and thus missing from the photos. When people get back home, they have a slew of photos of one another, or nine of the ten people of the group, but not everyone together. When you observe such a situation, offer to take a picture of them with their camera (a good way to see quite a few camera makes and models, BTW!). Follow-up by taking a photo or two with your own camera. Why? Should someone have their camera settings in some odd state, you are not going to have time to figure out how to fix them given the myriad of unique menu systems and options associated with the plethora of point-and-shoots and DSLRs you are likely to encounter. But you should know your camera well enough to quickly change a setting or two and get a quality photo.

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How to Convert Portraits to B&W with Lightroom 4

In this tutorial I will show you how to convert a portrait (shot in RAW format) to a black & white image using Lightroom 4. By the end of the tutorial, and with some practice, I hope to teach you how to have full control over the look of your B&W images. While I chose this particular look for this particular portrait, Lightroom offers many kinds of different ways to convert your images to black & white, and so it’s impossible to put all the looks into one tutorial. Certain conversions fit certain images better than others, and it also depends on taste and goal of the author. In the future, I hope to make more tutorials for both black & white and color photography with different conversion methods and looks.

B&W Result: HSL desaturation

Before we start, I would also like to note that, despite the fact that our final image will be in black and white, it is important to understand how everything works in color during the conversion process. While sometimes a simple contrast slider and curves tool can lead to a good-enough conversion, usually it is better to spend some more time tweaking different color ranges and working with white balance to affect color, and thus the tone of the image in order to achieve the best result.

With that in mind, here is the image I will be working on:

B&W Conversion Using Lightroom 4

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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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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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Nikon D800 vs D800E

Now that both the Nikon D800 and Nikon D800E are available, many of our readers are wondering which one to get. In this Nikon D800 vs D800E article, I will explain differences between the two cameras and talk about which camera to buy for which situation. Both cameras are identical, except for one major difference, which is why there is a price difference: the Nikon D800 has an anti-aliasing filter, while the Nikon D800E does not. In short, an anti-aliasing filter effectively removes Moiré (see below on what Moiré is), so the Nikon D800 will not have any problems with it, while the Nikon D800E cannot deal with it, so you will have to deal with it in post-processing.

What is Moiré?

Moiré pattern occurs when a scene or an object that is being photographed contains repetitive details (such as lines, dots, etc) that exceed the sensor resolution. As a result, the camera produces a strange-looking wavy pattern as seen below:

Moiré

(Image courtesy of photo.net)

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