Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Merging two images for greater impact

I'm a firm believer that extra images (seconds) from a photo shoot should be saved. For a while at least or until you know you will never need them. The reason I stand on this is that seconds have proven to be invaluable on many circumstances in my past. Often it's a client preferring one of my seconds rather than the image I picked. The other common circumstance is the need to use some element from one of my seconds to fix an issue with the principal shot.

Just recently I found myself in a situation where I couldn't decide which of two images was the keeper and which was the second. In the end I decided they would both be my seconds. Here's what I mean.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

5 tips for finishing your New Year's resolutions

I don't know why we do this to ourselves. Every year at this time we lie to ourselves by establishing goals and making promises that, deep down, we know we'll never keep. Every year the ever traditional New Year's resolution is declared for one reason or another. For me it's something to shoot for, a to do list of sorts. It always start out the same way too, nice and strong with high expectations and loads of enthusiasm that quickly dwindles down to a fond shimmer of a distant memory halfway through the year.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Custom online 3D logo generator for your watermarks

I have a love/hate relationship with watermarks on photos but I know there is a place for everything. While my opinions are my own I also realize that not everyone has the artistic skill to create anything beyond a simple text watermark.

Adobe's Lightroom program has a very flexible watermarking utility that allows the creation of simple text based watermarks. For anything fancier Lightroom requires a pre-designed PNG file with a transparent alpha channel.

If you are not familiar with alpha channels, they are see-through layers that allow a background to come through the non-logo areas when overlaid on a photo. While making these is relatively easy for a knowledgeable designer they can be tricky for the novice. Fortunately there is a great online tool that can make that whole process as simple as one, two, three.

Friday, August 14, 2015

3 tone guide to composition



My background in illustration and graphic design has offered me a unique view in analyzing lighting, composition and overall layout. Photography and illustration share many of the same visual guidelines so I tend to use my training in illustration when post editing my images. Specifically when working to establish the point of interest (the main theme or main subject).

When a photographer creates a photo there is an unwritten dialog between the author and the viewer. A topic is presented that will hopefully engages the viewer in a dialog. The dialog comes through the interplay of the viewer's eyes over the content of the image and is controlled by the photographer through the use of certain techniques (rule of thirds, leading lines, depth of field, contrast, and so on).

One technique I rely on to direct the viewer's eyes to my subject is through the manipulation of light. After all, we are using light to capture our scene, establish mood and shape our subject. This light can be manipulated in any number of ways: In a studio by placing the lights and adjusting ratios, or with natural light by using light shaping tools or the careful consideration of positions and backgrounds. There is also postprocessing manipulation of light in an image. All these techniques can be used to manipulate the light to where you want it.

As you come to study and understand light you will hear the term, "seeing the light," quite often. In truth, what this refers to is seeing the interplay of light and shadow and how it affects your subject. Color tone, saturation, contrast, edge transfer, specularity, are all qualities you will need to recognize but, for now, let's simplify things to three simple tones; white, middle gray and black. While this is a big oversimplification it will help make the process easy to understand.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Thoughts about the vernacular of photography


As a photography instructor I find myself paying very close attention to my choice of vocabulary. Words that otherwise are interchangeable by the novice have to be carefully separated in order to avoid confusing students during a lesson.

Take the following words for example; picture, photo, image, exposure. Out of context they can all refer to the same thing but in context they can be confusing, specially if the context adds to confusion. Look at this sentence, for example.

"If you want to get a good exposure you need to set your exposure properly."

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Save your seconds


In my Digital Workflow workshops I discuss many of the problems digital photographers deal with, including storage space. This seems to be a major issue with many less experienced photographers and includes what to do with all those extra photos. The duplicates, the not so good ones or the ones that may never get used or see the light of day. These are what are generally referred to as seconds.

Seconds is short for secondary image choice or secondary image selections. In culling through images the photographer selects images that represent the best for a given shoot. During this process some images are deleted (because they're unusable due to blur, misfires, camera setting errors, etc.) and the remaining are the seconds.

Let's suppose, for the sake of this example, that the photographer selects 10 of the 50 images to process. Of the 40 remaining, 10 of them are tests, errors or so blurry that they get deleted. That leaves 30 images as seconds from this photo shoot and they get segregated and saved. It doesn't stop here;

The photographer then turns over his primaries (the initial 10 he edited) to the client. Of those ten images the client will select only one for print. The remaining nine then become the client's secondaries. So now you know what secondaries are. Yeah, I know... long explanation.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Color as a social statement - Carrie Mae Weems


Courtesy Wikipedia.org
Continuing on with the discussion on "Color and emotion", I can't think of a better example of how color, subject and message integrate seamlessly than with the works of Carrie Mae Weems.

Carrie Mae Weems is an contemporary American artist who works in a variety of mediums but is best known for her photography work. Her work centers around the socio-political world of African-Americans and how society perceives them, though lately it has evolved to encompass more of the human condition than race.

One particular set of works that caught my attention were a series of portraits collectively called Colored People (1989-1990). In this series of portraits Mrs. Weems plays on the labels associated with a class of people in a straightforward, unabashed and reflective manner.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Color and emotion


Prism at work
Color is determined by the light reflecting off an object. It is a physical process with a constant set of values resulting in a predictable conclusion. It is basic physics.

Sir Isaac Newton established many of the basic principles of light through his experimentations with prisms. Simple as it seems today, this toy was instrumental in laying the foundation for particle based physics.

Scientifically that's all well and good but, as an artist, I could care less about particle physics. What I am most interested in is the psychology of color. Psychologically, color has more properties attached to them than mere luminance values, RGB values or even their common names. Sure, you might understand what the numbers 255,0,0 represent or that the term red is the common name for those numbers. Let's face it, we don't go around looking to photograph 255,0,0 or 87,53,64 or 15,8,164 or any other assortment of digital combinations between 0,0,0 and 255,255,255.

The interest in color on a psychological level, rather than an artistic level, is that I want to appeal to viewers on an emotional level. Sure, I can put orange and purple together in an image because they compliment each other. I would much rather place those colors together because they create a sense of tension and drama.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

5 simple tripod tips for better photos


A tripod is an essential tool for any photographer. It's purpose is to steady your camera in order to avoid movement that occurs when hand holding. That's it, that's all they do.

Tripods allow you to position a camera in a set place for longer exposures or multiple exposures. It allows you to position the camera in awkward positions that would otherwise be uncomfortable for a photographer. It also allows you to step away from the camera for remote shooting.

While in principle it all sounds relatively simple, there are a few tricks to keep in mind when working with a tripod. Here are five of the more important ones;

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Focal length and field of view


As a photographer creating an image for your viewers there are many ways to present that image. Lighting and color, composition, perspective, these are all choices you have to make. One of the inescapable tools used for manipulating your scene is your camera's lens.

With any lens there are considerations to keep in mind; focal length, angle of view and perspective are three that immediately come to mind and I'll cover some aspects that need to be understood in order to make an informed lens choice for a given scene. One suggested exercise is to take all your lenses, find a suitable subject and make a series of images with all the lenses in your collection. If you have a zoom lens, take several images at varying focal lengths so you have something for comparison.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Reflection vs Refraction


As your photographic skills improve and you start venturing more into light modifiers there are two terms you should understand; reflection and refraction.

Reflection refers to a change in direction of light when they bounce off a substrate. Refraction is the change in the direction of light as it passes through a substrate.

So why should you know these terms? If you work with light modifiers, having an understanding of how they work will help you understand what kind of results you can expect from them. All modifiers used in photography fall under one of these two categories.

In physical space, a light wave will travel in a straight path, from the source of illumination, until one of two things happen. An object in the light path either absorbs it or the object deflects it. Typically all object tend to do both. As light encounters an object, some of the light's color spectrum gets absorbed and the rest gets deflected. What gets deflected is what allows us to see color. How an object deflects light is dependant on the physical structure, or surface makeup, of the object.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Nesting Eagles in Milford


Mondays being one my days off from work I decided to take advantage of a rather nice day and scout some locations for a couple of photography workshops. I took a drive down to a local beach and finding no inspiration ended up traveling South following the Long Island Sound coastline. At one point I ended down a dead end street by an Audubon Society nature center. Half an hour later with nothing of interest in my camera I started packing up to leave. A woman parked in the car next to me commented on my camera (you know the deal) and we started a conversation about photography. She then asked me if I had gotten any pictures of the eagles. Huh, what eagles?

Apparently a pair of eagles had built a nest nearby. She offered to show me the spot and I couldn't pass this down. Fortunately for me I had my long lens with me. A short drive from the nature center and we were there. The nest was set in a ways from the road and the local Dept. of Environmental Protection had posted several keep away signs. Through several layers of winter tree branches we could clearly see the nest. It was obviously a local spectacle as we were soon joined by a few more people including another photographer with an equally long lens. At first I couldn't see any activity but after a few minutes I was able to make out the top of the female's head occasionally peeking out.

By now the sun was starting to set and I was forced to crank up my ISO. I also was having a hard time focusing through the trees. I flipped to manual and hoped for the best considering I was still a distance off from the nest. Oh, and I was using a monopod. Should I mention that the temperature was also dropping? Lack of activity in the nest, the dropping temperature and the waning light was causing me to call it a day and start packing up when my guide cried out, "here he comes!" The male was returning to the nest.

Okay, maybe I'll stay a little while longer.

It must have been feeding time as the male spent some time hovering over the nest. A few more cars stopped to check out the scene including a family with some very mesmerized young kids. After a while the male took to the skies again but only for a short trip to a nearby tree, offering the other photographer and myself a clearer view... of his butt! Go figure.

A crow came by and scolded the eagle as it turned it's powerful beak to a nearby small branch, trying to break it off to bring back to the nest. The branch proved to be tougher than the eagle and he ended up returning to the nest empty beaked.

All in all, it was really cool to be that close to such majestic birds out in the wild. Specially in an area that is not known for being home to these creatures. Thanks to Laura for pointing the nest out to me. I'll have to return to see if I can get some better shots.

Hope you enjoy these shots. Just goes to show what you might encounter if you keep your options open... and a little luck.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Studying past Masters - Gerrit van Honthorst, pt2


The Matchmaker by Gerrit van Honthorst
In the previous article, Studying past Masters - Gerrit van Honthorst, pt1, I introduced you to the chiaroscuro style of painting and discussed how light is used to direct the viewer's eye to the main subject. I also explained how studying the works of many of our great art masters can help improve your photographic education.

In this installment we will analyze the compositional choices of the painting and comparing them with well established photographic practices. So dust off your rule of thirds and let's take a look at The Matchmaker through the eyes on a camera lens.

Studying past Masters - Gerrit van Honthorst, pt1


The Matchmaker by Gerrit van Honthorst
The art world is rich with educational possibilities for a photographer. The grand masters in particular. All one has to do is be open to the potential lessons.

One of the more influential of the art movements in terms of lesson values to a beginner photographer is the Tenebrism style of painting of which the term Chiaroscuro is most commonly associated with it. I won't get into a long explanation of tenebrism and the subsequent chiaroscuro movement here as there are plenty of resources you can use to research on your own. I will, however, explain some of the elements that make it a valuable tool for photographers.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Image File Organization Part Three


This is the conclusion of a three part article on image file organization. If you haven't yet, take a few minutes to read Part One and Part Two.

To this point you should have an understanding of how to get your images organized in such a way that makes finding them easier. Although the previous method discussed was about organizing personal images the same holds true for client work, with some minor adjustments.

If you are a working professional, many of your private images likely cross over to your paid work. Technically you can claim that you are your own client but let's not confuse things.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Image File Organization Part Two


In "Image File Organization, Part One" I introduced a folder structure for organizing working image files that come off the camera for editing. In part two I will expand on a file structure for derived work from your working files. In other words, images output from your edits. After all, one image may be saved at several different sizes for different needs. These files I consider to be my Portfolio pieces. While they may not all be displayed in a typical portfolio format, they all showcase my work, whether on Facebook, Flickr, Shutterfly or my own portfolio site.

Before moving forward though, I strongly suggest taking a quick inventory of all the typical formats you use in your image sharing. Take everything into account. Social media sites like Facebook or MySpace, image sharing sites like Flickr and 500PX, forums, blogs and personal web sites. Anything where your images are posted and shared. You might also keep print output in mind as well since these files need to be stored somewhere. In particular, take note of image sizes and whether they are watermarked or not.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Image File Organization Part One


One of the biggest hurdles for many hobbyist photographers (and some pros also) is how to properly organize digital images. Long gone are the flat boxes of print and negative storage. Today it is a matter of disc space.

But it's not just disc space. There are multiple issues that need to be considered and addressed. Working files need to be organized into logical groups. They need to be able to be accessed by Digital Asset Manager (DAM) and editing programs like Lightroom and Photoshop. They should also be available outside of any program.

In short, good file organization is key to maintaining a good workflow, from initial capture to final output.

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