My Blogging Reasons:

1) When I was just starting out in the photography world I didn't have a lot of people to help me, I didn't have money to take classes so a lot of it was done the wrong way first. I want this to be a place of resource for beginners/hobbyists and everyday people, a place where you can ask me anything
2) Once I found a network of other photographers there were so many willing to dish out their secrets for free and help me along the way and this is a way I figure I can give back to the community
3) I have learned so much that my head is starting to overflow and I need a place to keep my notes freeing up some of my brain space for other things
4) The best way for me to remember something is to teach it to someone else.

Disclaimer: I don't think nor claim to be the worlds greatest photographer, but I continue to study and work really hard and by golly one day I might just be the best, but for now I will continue to learn right along with you!

I will add onto the lessons, so if something doesn't make sense chances are you are skipping ahead go back and read through the archives. If it is doesn't click ASK me anything anytime!

You can email me any questions or just post it in the comments and I will address them all here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

All About The Eyes...

First off where have you all been? I have missed you! Okay really I didn't mean to start this blog and then leave it hanging. I will try to add more often.

Okay now back to the eyes. It really is mostly about them in photography. If they aint in focus 98% of the time they should be tossed in the garbage. The 2% where you could keep them is only if you MEANT for their eyes to be out of focus for example something like this...

...if you didn't mean it don't hold onto it. (please note that I am speaking only from a professional photographers stand point, from a mother's stand point who cares if it is blurry...sometimes you have to keep it)

I know you have all looked at a picture and thought..."how do you make the eyes pop like that"...there are many tricks that you can do in editing, but PUHLEASE don't take your eyes into alien world. You know you have gone too far when
1) you see every color but the ones in a rainbow
2) all you notice are the eyes-eyes should draw you in and captivate you they should not take control of your mind if you find yourself zombie walking towards them you have gone too far.
3) if when you ask your child to look at the picture and tell you what color the eyes are and that night they have a nightmare you have probably gone to far.

In all seriousness it is very easy to take them too far and hopefully with this tut you will be able to pop your subjects eyes without popping the viewers.

#1) the most important step happens before you even pick up your camera to take the shot. When you are out and about start looking at people's eyes. Notice how different lighting makes them look. When you are sitting around the kitchen table under the chandelier (oh you don't have either, but I can dream) notice the light hardly reaches their eyes. Next time you are out on a bright sunny day notice again that the light doesn't quite reach the eyes, and the brow causes deep shadows. Compare these examples to finding nice "open shade" (read: that little bit of shade that is just past the sun the edge of a forest or building overhangs and porches) notice how the sunny environment reflects back into your subjects eyes and creates "windows" aka catchlights. Having good light in your subjects eyes is the FIRST and most IMPORTANT step. If you don't have light in the eyes don't even try to pop them.
#2) this step happens after you pick up the camera BUT before you snap the shot. Your exposure is going to make a big difference and make your editing a lot easier or harder depending on how you expose. If your shot is underexposed you are going to loose a lot of the brilliant natural color of the eyes therefore making it harder to edit. If your image is too bright you will wash out your color not too mention you will probably have blown spots. With the correct exposure the task of popping your eyes will have already begun.
#3) on to the editing part...
This image was donated for the cause by the lovely Sharon-and yes I do love the food)
here are my editing (in PSP but you should be able to transpose them into PS with ease) rather than repeating myself with a "dup layer" "merge layer" comment after every step just know that I did it. I also left the image full size so that you could zoom in and see the eyes.

Firstly I edit the picture as I normally do...

a) levels with the black point at 0 they grey point at 100 and the white point at 255
this just brings up the midtones a bit and lightens the shadows on the face

b) add a soft light layer-notice how this brings back the shadows slightly if we had skipped the first step those shadows would be too intense. I lowered the opacity down to 70%

c) hue/sat/light with my settings at hue=5 sat=21 light=0 with my opacity at 75% use this to your taste...I like lots, but you may not as much.

Here we end my "normal" editing and get into the "little extras"
d) I wanted to add a little more umph/contrast to the image by creating an "s" curve in curves. Since I know that most of you can't enter # into your curves make it look similar to this...

creating this...

e) now to work on the eyes themselves...use your lasso tool (it looks like a rope you would use for cows...haha a lasso) This will save you from having to erase everything but the eyes. Lasso his pupils playing with the whites of the eyes is a huge give away that you enhanced them (it doesn't have to be perfect) I do them separately. Starting with his right eye I applied a levels adjustment (same # as above) and lowered the opacity to 65%. Then I did his left eye and lowered the opacity on that layer to 65% also notice the catchlights and how you can see that not far past him was sunny-good job Sharon!

f) I am drawn to the original crop, but my eyes go to the left so I played with different crops to try to bring the viewer in to the eyes more. I played with a 5x7 crop. I left the dinner on his face...cloning is another tut in itself :)

g) I like to burn a little here are there and in this one I just did the leather

and there you have it...a pop of the eyes! Let me know if this helps you!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Tut For You

For your practicing pleasure. I should preface this by saying I use Paint Shop Pro X2 and NOT Photo Shop BUT you should be able to follow my steps and if you need help finding it in Photo Shop shout!

The original image the only thing done to it was a rotation. I ALWAYS edit the WHOLE image and save it BEFORE I crop or resize it.

My first step is to adjust my levels. What does this do? Play with the sliders/numbers and you will see. I play mostly with the midtones (the middle slider) this helps lighten up the shadows. For this image I used
0 for the black slider
97 for the midtone slider
255 for the white slider

As you can see there is a sort of haze over the image as most digital images will have especially after we lighten the midtones as we just did, so our next step is to bring out the contrast of the image.

Duplicate your layer and set it to soft light. For this image I reduced the layer to 80% this varies from one image to the next. Some I leave at 100% others 50% just depends on the lighting of the image.

Merge your layers and then duplicate it again (I try to do most of my editing in layers because I can have more control of it that way)

I like my colors to pop out and be enhanced a bit and I do this with Hue/Saturation/Lightness. With this step you have to be careful not to do too much your Reds are going to be enhanced the most and you don't want to pop them too much. My settings for this image were as follows and I left my opacity at 100% again this depends on the image sometimes I will drop it down to 20% rarely do I leave it at 100% but this image it works for.
Hue: 2
Sat: 20
Lightness: 0

As far as adjusting the color image I would leave it at this step, but to add a little extra umph to the image we will continue on a bit.

First I straightened the image a bit. In PSP I have a "Straighten Tool" that is very easy to use-it straightens and crops it straight, but I am not sure if PS has one so if you can't find one just rotate the image until the lines are straight and then crop where the image needs it.

We are now going to improve our composition by pulling his face out of the center and up into the frame a little bit. We do this by cropping and we are going to crop to an 8x10. My crop tool has a drop down menu where I can choose what size I want my image to be and then it will keep that ratio.

I didn't like the little wrinkle in his jeans of his left leg and I also wanted to get rid of some of his back so it did not look so big. Notice by doing this simple crop your eyes are more drawn to his face.

Now we burn to also help bring more emphasis to his face. My burn settings are
Hardness: 14
Step: 10
Density: 100
Thickness: 100
Opacity: 28
I burned everything but his skin and lowered the opacity to 85%

I also soften the background a bit more too mostly the wall and the rocks-I use my soften brush which for me is found where the burn brush is.

To pop the color a bit more you can repeat the H/S/L step again and here I reduced it to 45% and tada here is my colored image complete, now on to the black and white.

The key to a good black and white is a good colored image so always edit your colored image first and then convert it.

I use Hue/Sat/Lighten for my conversion. Make sure that "colorize" is checked and my settings are
Hue: 14
Sat: 6
Light: 0

Notice how lifeless and flat the black and white is at this level, the skin tones are so gray and boring. Sadly all too often this is where a black and white is left. We are going to take it further though and improve it.

Duplicate your layer and go to levels (I use the same settings as above) lower your opacity down to 40%-because of his fair hair and skin it is not necessary to lighten it up much so with a different subject you might have to raise the opacity more.

Now we have a lighter image that is quite flat still. So we dup the layer and do another soft light layer to it. Since in this case the image was quite flat I left my opacity at 75%

Notice the difference? I like to warm up my images just a tad and do this with curves (I do know that in PS elements you do this in levels) I select the red and green channels and grab a point in the middle and raise it just slightly to your liking.

and there we have it a black and white image and since we did all the little editing with the colored image it is done now. Although I do like to add a little more burning to it-using the same settings as above.

Okay so I forgot to resize the images so I will come back later this week and resize them so when you click on them they are not so HUGE!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Many Ways To Meter

All cameras are a bit different in the way that they symbolize the metering mode, so read through your manual to figure out which symbol is which mode. I shoot with a Canon 40D and most of the Canon symbols will be the same

There is almost always more than one way to meter and to be completely honest once you learn the basics of each metering mode it becomes a personal preference for the situation and look you want. Like most things photography related there is usually more than one right answer. So we will start with the basic symbol and how to use it. Now your camera may or may not have all of these modes but most likely they have a few of them.

[ ] is CENTER-WEIGHTED metering-this means that your meter is taking its reading off of the center of the image and then averaging the rest of the scene. When would you use this? When I want to take a picture of the "whole scene" when I want the blue sky blue and the grass green (unless you are in my yard). When I want detail in all the shadows and all the highlights, just remember that it is not really metering the whole scene just 70%

[ ( 0 ) ] EVALUATIVE metering-this is the most often used (well that is until you learn that you have other options) it is when the camera take into account the entire scene and chooses an exposure that is best for all parts. It is very similar to center-weighted except with center-weighted the meter is only metering 70% of the scene (from the center out) and with evaluative the meter is reading 100% of the scene. When would you use it? The same situations as center-weighted (see there is more than one right answer)

[ ( ) ] is PARTIAL metering-this is when your meter reads only part of the scene (only about 14%) this mode is more popular when you are close in on your subject and you want a specific part of the scene in the best exposure possible. When would you use it? When you want the best possibly exposure of your subject and not the surroundings. This is a very common metering mode for portraits and back lit situations (when the sun is behind your subject)

notice here how much brighter my sky and foreground is, but the tree (my subject) has a lot more detail than the previous examples.

[ 0 ] is SPOT metering-does pretty much what it says it meters a small spot (center of your frame). When would you use this? When there was a very specific part of the image that you wanted exposed properly. For example if I were outside off my porch with my front door open and wanted to take a picture of the inside of my house I would use spot metering and zoom in or place the very center of my frame inside my house take a reading and then I could recompose the shot (making sure to use the same settings as my reading). Doing this will more than likely make my front porch overexposed, but the inside of my house properly exposed. In this same situation if I had used evaluative metering my meter would have averaged the scene causing the inside to be very underexposed and because it is so underexposed it is going to pull down the exposure of the outside also making it underexposed a little too. This feature is newer and is not on older SLR models but you could get the same results by using partial metering (just remember that your spot is bigger)

We are not going to get into exposure compensation with this assignment and in all of the examples I metered at "0". This is to help you get an understanding of when and what metering mode to use. I 90% of the time shot my portraits in PARTIAL metering mode because I can get the most accurate reading on my subjects (since that is what I am taking a picture of) and 90% of my landscapes are taken in EVALUATIVE mode (since I want the whole scene in the best possible exposure) exceptions are when I want to capture sun flare with back light and then I use PARTIAL and treat the trees or other objects as my subjects, if I used EVALUATIVE in this instance I would get my foreground too dark and have to do too much editing afterwards.

Okay your assignment this week is to take a picture using all 4 metering situations choosing which option is best for your image. Because most SLR cameras only have 3 metering modes you will have to improvise with the partial metering mode for your spot metering picture . I want your images to differ (unlike mine) no fair using the same "subject" but you don't necessarily have to use a live subject.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Shoot Out...

...I thought I would post all my images from our shoots here with my settings (above each shot) and such-if you have any questions fell free to ask. Oh and I love to hear feedback on my images learning to critique an image helps you to see more in your images.

Cute CUTE girls!

ISO 200; SS 1/400; F4.0

ISO 200; 1/250; F4.0 ISO 200; 1/320; F4.0
ISO 800; 1/200; F6.3
ISO 800; 1/200; F6.3
ISO 800; 1/250; F6.3

ISO 200; 1/200; F6.3 ISO 200; 1/640; F2.8
ISO 200; 1/200; F2.8
ISO 800; 1/160; F6.3
ISO 800; 1/160; F6.3
ISO 800; 1/200; F6.3
Notice what a difference it makes to walk around and rotate the camera-this shot doesn't show enough of what she is looking at and the lines of the door pull the eye out from her and to the edge of the image
This one there still is lacking of space for her to look into, but at least now the lines of the door (and of the shed to the left) draw the eye back to her
This one we have lines drawing the eye to her in both directions as well as space for her to look into
ISO 800; 1/2000 (yup that is right-totally forgot to bring my ISO back down after the sun came back out from the clouds-ahwell-good thing for my wonderful camera that can handle a high ISO!) F2.8

Okay lets see what you got! Send me 3 images (your favorites) both edited and not edited. Send the non edited file as big as you can so I can really see and you can resize the edited one to 700 pixels on the longest side. If you attach them as a photo rather than a file you can send bigger attachments. Also send me what you have from last week and I will work on getting an assignment up tomorrow night...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Composition Says It All

Okay so maybe not all, but most. It is what separates a snap shot from a portrait, it is what makes an images an "ahhh" moment or an "ehhh" moment.

So the basic rules:

1) keep it simple-watch your backgrounds for unwanted clutter, use props that bring the focus to the subject and not ones that become the subject. Remember you are taking a picture of your subject and not your surroundings

2) rule of thirds-keeping the most important parts of the image along the intersecting lines of the thirds-see example-avoid placing objects of interest in the center.

3) eye travel-when you look at an image pay attention to how your eye travels, the more you do this the easier it is to see. When you are composing your shots watch for leading lines-do they lead into the frame or out of it? Where is your negative space is it in front of the eye or behind the head?

4) Point of view and angles-pay attention to the angle you are shooting your subject and ask yourself is this a snap shot position or a portrait position? Is the angle you are shooting at flattering to your subject?

Okay so your homework assignment(s)-I hope you are reading this because I am changing it just a bit.

1) ABC word creating interesting angles and compositions also paying attention to your exposure and focus, take pictures of objects that create letters see here for examples. Create a word and submit it for critique on compositions, focus, and exposure.

2) take one object and shoot it from at least 5 angles/directions/depth of view send me all of them and the one that you like the best and why.

3) send me at least 3 other images for composition critique

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Exposing to "O"

A common misunderstanding is that your meter should always read "0" this is true ONLY if everything you take a picture of has a tone equal to GRAY and since that is hardly the case you have to learn to see tones and the ranges in order to meter correctly.

Here is a BLACK case that I metered at "0" to me this seems more GRAY than BLACK and the reason for that is because it is overexposed.

A proper metering for a BLACK case or anything BLACK and DARK toned would be almost "-2" I say almost because you want to leave a little room for editing.
Here is a WHITE paper metered at "0" again we see a GRAY color and the reason for this is because it is severely underexposed.
A proper metering for a WHITE paper and anything WHITE or LIGHT toned would be almost "+2" again I say almost for a little wiggle room in editing
Here we have a shot including all 3 tones. Here I metered my GRAY card to "0" and this is the rare case where metering exactly at "0" is correct.

Here is a GRAY card metered to "0" and this is what it is supposed to look like. Using a GRAY card for metering is VERY effective and makes the guess work easier, BUT I suggest learning to both use it and not use it since not every shot is one where you can freeze while you run inside to get the GRAY card