Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Building my empire.

Hello all,
Being a full time art student and trying to hone my techniques and grow my photography business has taken its toll on my blog entries from time to time, and this past week or two is just an example. Whew, have I been busy! With a couple of midterm tests past, I can now jump back in to the blog world, and that is great since I have so much that I wish to share!
First of all, congrats to all of the graduating high school seniors out there! I have met a few as of late, and I could not be more proud of them.
With that said, please allow me to update my photo blog with a fast rundown of jobs, and the details of these jobs. To market myself, I have decided to put together a portfolio of work. Problem was, what do I put into this portfolio? After some time, I decided that I want to photograph several different things, for a living. I like to photograph people as well as merchandise, both in studio and on location. My goal became to "hook up" with people and merchandise that resemble my target niche. So, after much thought I came up with my plan of attack.
I had some images that I could use for my portfolio already, from recent projects and weddings, so the ones that I was lacking were first on my hit list. I needed some examples of my portraiture of people, as well as some studio photography of objects. I came up with some "win-win" propositions for some local folks, and it worked as planned! The "win-win" goes something like this: "let me photograph you, and you can have some of the images for free". Who could resist that?

For the merchandise shots, I asked a friend that is honing her own hand-made jewelry marketing skills if she would like some images for her portfolio. Turns out that she was in need of someone with a decent photography studio to photograph some of her newer pieces. I could not have asked for a better line up!
Now, with my target niche in mind, and some people and merchandise all lined up, all that had to happen was the photography. I set up a date and a time to meet with the jeweler friend. We met at my studio, and we spent a few hours shooting her rings and necklaces on different colors of seamless paper, a sheet of glass, and I shot it all using several flashes and reflectors. Now we both had exactly what we needed, which is a true win-win!
Than my brother and his wife called, and we decided that I would photograph her two boys, which are both seniors in high school. That covered the male side of my portfolio, but what about the female side of the spectrum? I met a local high school model thru a modeling website. I ran the idea of a free shoot by her, and she too agreed. I later found out that she had not yet had her senior photos taken. This was really coming together, and people were truly getting what they needed! With my feet still tired from the first two photo sessions, we decided to meet that very next weekend!
We met and shot on a great day, at a great location, and it went very smoothly. I had to use a single Nikon SB-800 flash on a flash stand for the days' lighting because my new assistant could not make it. Necessity was the mother to creation on that shoot! I used a daylight colored gel in the diffuser on the flash, and I really like the results that we got! The combination of location and the gel make the images appear to look like a setting sun was behind the camera. Needless to say I should have been shooting this way from the start, but now I realize that I can do this on my own!
Next, after a few afternoons of editing time, my new portfolio is looking very well stocked with fresh new images. I feel comfortable moving on to the next phase of my marketing for some new photography business. With several wedding, engagement, newborn child, senior portrait, children, and some merchandise photo sessions under my belt and in my "portfolio building" folder, it is time to think about marketing.
It would be nice to copy someone else's steps, but I don't have that luxury. What I do have, though, are a great collection of well established professionals that are solid friends. I am leaning towards assembling my portfolio images all together and have a simple coffee table book made up using them. Nothing over the top, but instead a simple, sharp looking album that I can use as a portfolio. I have put some thought into making several separate portfolios, like one for merchandise, one for weddings, and one for portraiture, but the cost might be too much for me to absorb at the moment. So, I decided to place all of the portraiture images in the portfolio, at the front, and then keep the merchandise images towards the back. As I get some work from my marketing ventures I can always have several "niche" portfolios made up and then use them to target a more specific crowd.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Senior Portraits.

With the ring of my telephone, in the early hours of yesterday morning, came a new endeavor for my only day off.

" Can you take pictures of the boys", my Brother asked as I still lie in my warm bed.
"Yes", I said into the phone, still only half awake.

What happened within an hour of that waking phone call was a great senior portrait session, times two. Two handsome young men posed in several different locations, in the great fall sun. Here are a couple of the only images that I have gotten done.

Kudos to the boys as they resisted the texting temptations and let their cell phones ring away as they focused on my commands, like "Raise your head", and "look at me". Their mom and my brother supplied all of the reflecting and diffusing, and all together it was a great time!

Now, back to editing a million images, times two.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Fast Photoshop vignettes

When working with images in Lightroom making a quick vignette for them is a snap. It can be just as fast and just as easy to get awesome vignettes using Photoshop too. Here is the method that I use most often, and get great results with.
First, I opened up an image in Photoshop. This is an image that I have shown you before, so let's use this one.
Let's assume that I have finished all work on the image. Vignettes should come last on the workflow list. Each vignette that I do I do separately. I like to make them as custom for each image as I can. Nothing is worse than a "loud" or obvious vingette, plus they are a fast thing to add to an image. With this image open in Photoshop, simply drag the background layer into the copy layer icon, and then you will have a copy of the original layer to work with.
In the layer pallet well, change the layer overlay style, or type, from normal to multiply. This type of overlay as well as "overlay" seem to work best most of the time for vignettes. Your image should turn dark, so stay with me as we will make it look good, I promise!
Next, select the elliptical marquee tool, which is in the upper right hand corner of the tools well. A quick note about this tool: If you press and hold down the shift key as you use the elliptical marquee tool you will get perfect circles. If you use just the tool you will get ovals. I used the oval option, or without the shift key, for this particular image.
Click and drag with your mouse to create an oval as the image shows. After it has been drawn on your image you can adjust where it lies on the image using the mouse once more. When you are pleased with the placing of the oval, go up, under the "select" heading and choose feather. Enter 90 into the pop up box, and press enter. Doing this "feather adjust" will create a natural gradation for the vignette that you are creating.
The very next thing for you to do is to press the "Delete" key on your computers keypad. This erases the center of our multiply overlay, leaving the edges alone, or leaving only the information outside of our feather. Adjust the opacity of the multiply/feather vignette layer to taste. I usually aim for about 20 percent. Lastly, you can look under the "layer" heading, and choose "flatten image", and save it as a JPEG.

Please, if you have not already, feel free to subscribe to my photography blog now by pressing the "subscriby" button. Thanks, and happy shooting to you!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Easy black and white conversion, with some easy color too!

One thing that will forever be cool and popular are those black and white images where one particular part of the image is still in color. These can be fast and easy to achieve, using the ever powerful Photoshop. Lets see how it is that one can go from color to black and white and then back to color, but only with a single item in the image.
This is the image that I will start todays blog with. It is a single leaf floating in a pond with other leaves below it on the bottom of the pond.

I should take a second and explain something that Vincent Versace explains in one of his tutorials. He tells us that we should start our editing process with the largest over all fix first, and then work our way to the smaller fixes. For example, if we need to color correct, than that should come first. Removing some acne on a face should come later, as we edit. With that said, lets assume that this image above has been color corrected, and every other major edit has been performed already. We only want to get it to a nice looking black and white with only some "color spots".
Drag the background layer (in the layers well) down and drop it on to the "duplicate layer" icon, which is the square in a square icon. This will copy the background layer, and now you should have two layers. Under the "Image" heading on the top of the software screen, select "adjustments", and then choose "hue/saturation". Take the saturation slider and move it all of the way to the left, or to "-100". You should be seeing a black and white image. We are not there yet, but we are close. The image seems to lack some pop, or lack some true black and true whites.

Next we are going to dial in the blacks and the whites. This can be done in a number of different ways. I will show you a couple of different ways to do this, here in this blog entry. The different ways that I will show you are perhaps the two most common. Performing both of these on each image that you edit might be overkill. The idea here is to show you a couple of different ways that you can use with any image that you wish to change to a black and white, and then you can find what works best for you.
The first way that I would like to show you, in order to boost the blacks and the whites, is with the levels tool. Click on, and drag the new black and white layer down to the same "new layer icon" in order to copy it to a new layer. Click on the "Image" heading once again and then choose the "adjust" heading, and then click on "levels".
The pop up screen for the levels slider, or the dialog box, is our black and white images' histogram. Move the left (black) slider to the right until it is just under the first bit of black information in the histogram. Next, slide the right (white) slider to the left, until it is sitting just under the first bit of white information in the histogram. You may now move the medium grey slider (in the middle, towards the black and white sliders) to taste, but do so slowly. I have done this step in the image below.

Now there is something that you might need to do before moving on. If the new (levels) adjustments seem to be too harsh looking, or too intense, then you might want to tone them down a little. You can do this by lowering the "opacity" of the new levels adjustment layer in the layer pallet well.

A second way to perform this "poping of the blacks and the whites" step is by using a curves adjustment layer. Imagine if you will, that you did not perform the above "levels" procedure, but instead opted to do it this way, using a curves adjustment layer instead. With the new black and white layer highlit, and not the background layer, simply click on the half white half black circle in the layers pallet well. Choose "curves" from the adjustment layer pop up menu. A new layer will appear after you do this.

What you need to do next is to click on the black eye dropper in the new curves pop up, and then click on the part of your image that is supposed to be a true black. Repeat this with the white dropper, on the true white part of the image, and you can even repeat it with the medium grey dropper too, if you need to. Most of the time I do not use the medium grey dropper. Click "O.K.".
If the new resulting curves adjustment layer is too harsh looking, or intense, you can tone it down by simply adjusting the opacity slider in the layers pallet well. Click on the number, or the percentage showing in number form, and slide it to the left.

Once you are done, it is time to "merge down" the new (curves or levels) adjustment layer. What you need to do here is click on the "Layer" heading, and then choose "merge down". You should see that your newly adjusted (curves or levels) layer has been merged down and combined into the second layer.

Next, it is time to create a layer mask. With the top layer high lit, simply click on the "add a layer mask icon" which is the brown square with the white circle inside of it, in the layers pallet well. This makes the active, or high lit layer a layer mask.

Pressing down "D" and then "X" (at anytime in Photoshop) will set the working colors to black and white. This should be done now, as it will be the only two colors that you will use with layer masks.
Click on the paint brush tool icon in order to get ready to paint. You can change the type and size of the brush as well as the intensity, or the opacity of the actual painting. With layer masks, as you paint with black selected as your active color the "active" layer disappears. To replace it, paint over it with the color white. So, if you make a mistake as you paint in black, no sweat! Choose white and go over it again to get it the way that it was. The higher you set the opacity of the brush itself, the more color it will alow to come through.
When you are happy with the results, go under the "layer" heading and choose "Flatten image". This will merge all of the layers into one "background layer. You are done!

You have just used levels, layer masks, and a curves adjustment layer all in one edit job. If you have never used any of these tools or tasks, take a bow! These tasks are not too hard to perform, but way too many folks are scared to use them, or even learn about them! Practice will bring speed, and a faster workflow.
One thing about Photoshop that I love is that you can perform any one task, in more than one way. Try out the many different tools, and see what things really do. You paid for the software, so use it!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The fall, and end of summer, season.

Well there sure has been a buzz in the air. That buzz that we all are feeling is the fall leaf-popping season. With total beauty everywhere, where I live in Maine, I have been pointing the Nikons in every direction. Every direction except down.... until I was told about the incredible mushrooms that have popped up on the lawn of our college. These were as large of a mushroom as I have ever seen before. They were right out of a story book, and I could not wait to return after the sun went down just to have some fun.

I used a tripod with the "stem" inserted upside down to get down low to the ground. I set the f-stop at "30", just above the "bulb" setting, and then I got to work. I needed that much time in order to run around and light the pancake sized tops of these fungi! I decided to set the apearute at such a depth of field that the entire image would be sharp, at 6 or so, so the adjusting factor had to be the I.S.O. The light that I was using was running on batteries, so its' light was fairly constant throughout the cool, fall night. I started with an I.S.O. of 100, but eventually went with an I.S.O. of 400. I did drop one of my lights and had to replace its' bulb on the fly. The idea of being prepared for anything sure came in handy, to say the least.

The ray of light image was taken in a complete rush. As I drove along looking for some colors, I came across a spot of the road engulfed in smoke from a yard burning home owner. I love the ray scenes that come from tree branches/ shadows in the smoke. I have never had much success actually capturing the effect. Here is perhaps the best one ever, and I was looking for color! Monochromatic wins!

Lastly I will leave you with three that I shot recently at an amusement park, here on the beach. The season was ending, and the folks were getting in their last rides of the season.
The image with all of the feet sticking out over the edge gets me every time. The swing shot is one that I adore, as I feel that it relates to the end of the season, by only showing one rider. I love the outlines and the highlights of the chains and the chairs. I spotted the balloons as a backdrop and then I laid in wait for someone to stroll past. Using a long lens, I remained out of their site as to not spoil the look on their face. If you are the person in the image, sorry! I should have told you after the fact. The setting sun sort of filled the balloons with light, and their contrast went down.