Sunday, December 6, 2009

Create a composite image in Photoshop

Creating a composite image in Photoshop using different exposures and different white balances in your images.

The concept for this creative shoot was thought out the night before I shot it. As I tried to fall asleep on a couch, with three miniature schnauzers, I thought my way through a challenging and creative image. All that I knew for sure was the fact that I was creating a warm “Christmas card” sort of image with a Christmas tree for most of the background, and the main focus being a young child.

I quickly thought about incorporating a star filter to the Christmas lights in order to create a warm holiday feeling. However, I did not want the star filter to add any distractions or effect to the rest of the image. I also wanted the beautiful decorations on the tree to be sharp and well exposed. Lastly, I needed the child to be well light and full of detail.

I then realized that I would need to take several different exposures, using different white balances throughout, and one exposure would be through a star filter. The lights on the tree would need an “incandescent” white balance (in camera), the rest would get a “flash” W.B. Setting. This is because I would be lighting both the tree's decorations and the child with two Nikon SB28's through umbrellas.

Just as I was about to drift off to sleep I realized that each image would need to be taken from the exact same angle and height. If the camera moved as I shot the images would not line up as I later edited through them. The star filtered image would need a longer exposure too, so a tripod would be employed for the session. I would need to “frame in” the image first, and then not move the camera at all as I took each image.

I also used a Nikon MC-30 remote shutter release just to make sure that the camera would not move at all.

Then I was ready to start taking pictures! First, I shot the Christmas lights-only, with the star filter, set at half a second at F/4, an ISO of 200, and W.B. set to “incandescent”. I turned off all of the other lights throughout the house, and then took the long exposure of just the Christmas tree lights. I didn't care if anything else was properly exposed in this image, since all I would be keeping is the star effect near each light.

Long exposure, exposed for the lights using a star effect filter.

The second image that I took was of the tree itself, with all of the great decorations. I set up two Nikon SB28's, each diffused with white umbrellas, and each one at about a 45 degree angle from the center of the tree that was facing the camera. I turned off the Christmas tree lights and then took the shot. I shot with the white balance set on “flash”, and at1/60th at F/5 with the ISO set at 200.

This image is exposed for the decorations only.

Next up came the images of the child in her red Christmas dress. I could take as many shots as I wanted, of the child, all with different poses, as long as the camera perspective did not move. I can't stress this point enough, and I will hit on this point at least one more time as I walk you through the editing.

This image was exposed for the Child only, with two flashes.

Again, I used the two Nikon SB28's with umbrellas in order to light the baby. I used flash because I knew that she would not stay still at all. Again, the W.B. was set to “Flash”, and I shot at 1/60th at F/5, with the ISO set at 200. I did not care if anything else exposed, because all that I wanted was the girl exposed.

Once the images were taken it was time to edit them in Photoshop.

First of all I would like to take a second and explain one point. Each image was taken with its own correct white balance which was set “in camera”. However, since I would be comping several different images (of different white balances) into one final image, I will be adjusting each of these images white balance once more in Photoshop using the threshold feature. This is to make certain that the three images match up perfectly in color and then combine to form one great looking composite image.

The first image that I opened was the image that I took of the tree and its decorations. This will become my background image that I will drag and drop other images into. I then doubled the background layer, did a white balance correction using threshold and curves, and that was about it. I like to use the threshold function in order to find the true white and true black in an image, and then I use the dropper tool (in curves) to set them as such. Since this step is done with each image, I will only type “threshold adjustment” from here on out.

Next, I opened the image of the lights through the star filter. I went through the threshold procedure, and then it was time to layer it on the first image. I need these two images to lay exactly on top of each other, so I held down the shift key as I dragged the star filter image onto the background tree image. A new layer opens automatically, with the star filter image on it.

With the new layer active, I created a layer mask and “painted out” everything except the lighting effect over the tree. Layer masks work with painting black and white colors. White “paints in” on the image, and black removes, or “paints out” on the image. Setting the brush and opacity determines how much is removed or placed back; on a layer mask.

I decided to set the layer blend mode of the layer mask layer to lighten in order to allow only the lighter parts to remain on top, and to allow the darker parts of the background image to show through. I also lowered the opacity of the layer mask layer just a little in order to make the effect a little more believable.

Back Ground image after two tree images get merged togather.

Now, if it looks great, flatten the image and save it. Now you can open this image each time, and then do the same thing with each child pose image. Let me explain what I mean.......

In my mind I hoped to get the tree image and star lights image combined, save it, and then simply add each of the different child poses onto this combined, flattened image. I took a lot of child poses, so I shad a lot of work to do.

Painting with layer masks is the fastest way that I know to do this. Forget a natural cut and paste. Cutting around hair is almost impossible to do, and it just looks like a cut and paste job. Besides, what is easier than painting?

Each time I open up and start to edit a new Christmas card image, I first open up the custom background image. Then I open the “pose image” that I will drag and drop onto the custom background. I perform the threshold white balance task on the “pose image” and then drag and drop the “pose image” (holding down the shift tab) into the custom background image. Once more, it will automatically create a new layer for the dropped layer, and this will be made into a layer mask.

“Paint out” all of the image, except for the child, on the new layer mask layer. As for a tip, you can make the layer mask only visible by turning off the background layer. This will show you any of the image that you might have missed. The reverse will show what is behind the pose layer in order to determine what should show through, and what should not.

Layer mask, with the child layer only active.

All that is left is for you to flatten and then save your new composite image. It is just this easy!

Final Composite image, made from three exposures for lighting.

Playing with the different layer blending types, as you experiment with your own composite images, will prove to be a ton of fun. Don't be scared to try new things as you work, as that is how we all learn!

Pleas take a second and subscribe to the A.T.A.P. Blog right now. You sure don't want to miss out on all of the great information that I like to pass on. Your comments are also always welcome. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you again soon!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Recent photo shoot, and a hard lighting lesson learned.

A big thank you goes out to a big family. I was recently asked to photograph these four generational images that you can see in this post. What an opportunity! For the first set of images I gathered the entire group into a local cemetery, and then I got to work. I liked this little bridge with the little white rails, and I was pleased to see it covered with all of the fallen leaves. This would become location number one.

I stood on the back of a pick up truck in order to get as high as I could. I did this on account of the sheer number of participants involved, and also because of how many rows of people I would soon have. My sister grouped the folks together and I made sure that I could see them all through the lens. After that, I made sure that the strobes could in fact light them all, and then I fired away.

I set up three separate strobe units, all of which were Nikon SB28's with pocket wizards as remote triggers. These two pieces of gear seem to work flawless, time after time.

I mentioned at the beginning that I learned a lesson, and here it is.

I knew that if I shot this crowd with a bare bulb set up then the resulting shadows would be intense and hard. I set up two Nikon SB28 strobes, high on stands, and at a 45 degree angle towards each other, and I put on some barn doors just to control any unwanted light spillage. My mistake was that I assumed that by simply adding a third strobe (also with a bare bulb, and centered between the two other lights) that third strobe would help eliminate any over intense shadowing.

What happened was that I got three sets of hard and rather bold shadows! I had umbrellas with me, at the shoot, and I should have used them as diffusion material. Well, I knew as I set up that this might be a problem and thought that I had it covered with the third strobe unit. I was so wrong. Next time, I will add some diffusion!

Without knowing how hard the shadows actually were, I packed everyone up and set out for the second location. By packing up and heading out, I lost the chance to re-shoot the images using some diffusion. I spent hours softening up shadows, and/or removing shadows completely. Do not leave a shoot with out viewing your images at full size. Now I know this.

The second location that we shot at was just down the road at a local middle school. The trees were in full fall color, and all sorts of hardwoods were available for placing the family in front of and/or beside. For this part of the day, I simply bounced the warm afternoon sun right at the clients with a California Sun Bounce.

The California Sun Bounce that I used was a large unit, perhaps four or five feet long, and it lit the entire crowd. My sister worked her magic with the California Sun Bounce as I shot away. The shadows were not as hard nor as intense this time, and the only problem with this series was a white balance issue.

I knew that the white balance would not be perfect because the sun was coming in through the trees, and all of the fall leaves. They had a yellowish tint to them, and the leaves overhead acted like a yellow diffusion sun tent. The clients looked like they had just fallen into a load of cheesy doodles.

As for editing this series of images, I did something a little bit differently. With a fast white balance adjustment in Lightroom, I was fairly accurate. The white balance look was not where I wanted it though, as I stated they were all sort of yellowish and cheesy looking, even after a correct white balance adjustment. So, I added a blue cooling photo filter in Photoshop CS3 and then “WHAMMO”, it was a done deal!

The opposite end of the warmish yellow/orange color spectrum is blue, so I just gave using the filter a shot. I put the blue cooling filter on to a new layer and set it at about 70 percent opacity before flattening the final image.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Owen and Ariana

Here are a couple of images from my most recent photo shoot. I had the pleasure of photographing these young cousins while at a popular beach spot.

The day could not have gone any better, with great weather and even a mother for a helper. I was also reminded all about the power of patience. Often times I deal with children, as well as pets, so patience is a virtue.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Celina and the Maine bugs.

What a great time we all had on my most recent photo session! Celina was my victim in this case, and she had a ball. She wishes to enter modeling, and I am only happy to help her. We met in a local cemetery, set up some Nikon strobe units, and went to town. The pesky bugs came out too, and I am still itching like crazy! Maine and the blood seeking bugs, go figure!

I set two Nikon SB28 flashes behind an umbrella, just to diffuse the harshness from the flashes a little, and aimed it at the prettiness. I played with two Nikon SB-800 , snooted and gridded, to add back, hair, and/or side lighting.

The laying down image needed less lighting overall. It was mid-day sunshine, so only the two Nikon SB-800’s were used. The sun was almost entirely eliminated, in camera, and the flashes were brought in to light only her face. The two Nikon SB-800 flashes were snooted and gridded, and aimed out from 45 degrees, and six feet away.


Thanks to Celina and her family. Thanks for coming by to visit. Feel free to subscribe by typing in your email up and to the right, in the box!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Before and after

Being way too anxious to show you my images, I neglected to allow a way for you to compare with a before and after viewing of the images that I put up last time. Here are the before and the after images for you all.



As you can see, I first put in a blue sky. The day was overcast, which was perfect! No shadows and such a great natural diffused light. Next I darkened the back ground mountains, and followed up with the second mountain from the front. This gave it some depth. I burned the foreground as well, as to make it less distracting to the eye.

Next, I added some cool and warm hues to the rocks just to add depth as well as lighting details.



Sunday, June 28, 2009

Making portraits using just one light source.

With all of the recent action on the web dealing with photographers exploring portrait sessions in which only one light source is used, I figured that I would show some of my recent work. Strobist has been running/posting a very cool series on this very subject, and a lot of people have been responding to it.

When I set out to capture portraits using only one light source, two different things usually come to mind. First, I (most often) will bounce in light against (or aimed at) the initial lighting source. This adds fill lighting on the subject. Technically, only one light is used but it does come from two different directions. This helps to remove any unwanted harsh shadows.

The second thing that comes to mind when using only one light source in portraits is getting a harsh, almost extreme shadow. Here are some examples of both versions of “one light portraits”, and all taken this weekend.

On this occasion I set up the lighting in a very easy to set up, and easy to use manner. I placed two Nikon SB-28 strobe units onto one adjustable lighting stand. I topped them off with an umbrella just to provide a larger lighting surface in order to diffuse the light coming from the two flash units.

Fill lighting was supplied using a simple silver reflector, which bounced the strobes initial light back at the subject. Pocket Wizards were employed, for the first time, and I must write a nice big “thanks for the gear loan Scott, over at Weekly Photo Tips”!

With the two strobes, Pocket Wizards, Quantum Battery pack, and an umbrella all on one stand, I found it was simple to move the “kit” around to any spot that I wanted, and it was just as easy to “aim the strobes and then shoot”.

The set was also done in a simple way. I placed a sheet of black muslin onto a backdrop stand, and then placed a desk under (and in front of) the muslin and the stand. I draped the muslin over the top of the desk to make for a large black background. A pillow and a blanket were hidden under the muslin, on top of the desk, for the child’s safety.

In the above image the light stand was placed low, and just in front of, the desk. Next, I placed the silver reflector above the desk, just above where the hands were going to be. The reflector was aimed back at the strobes in a way that light would be reflected back into the place where the hands were going to be. I asked Mom and Dad to each provide a finger for the child to grip onto and the baby just did what she thought was natural. Perfect!

I placed a black out card/reflector between the back of the strobe stand and the camera, just to make sure that there wasn’t any unwanted light entering the lens.

This image was done in the exact same set, using the same lighting and reflector. I love how the baby is gripping the hand of the father. She is so cute.

Here is what I meant by a harsh, contrast rich shadow with a half lit face. This was accomplished by placing a set of blinds between the strobe (bare flash with a snoot) and the subject. I also used a second light just to add some light to the right side of his head. So, two light sources and a reflector was used for this image, not one. I took this image just for this blog post, but it seems to be growing on me.

Well, thanks for stopping by. Feel free to subscribe to “All Things About Photography” by simply typing your email into the box! That is just to insure that you never miss a post. Comments are also always welcome!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summertime, and HDR images.

With the summer season comes so much for us all to do. Slowing it down (or even stopping) every once in a while to smell (or photograph) the flowers is a must.

One image that I took several years ago of wild lupines has done rather well for me in stock image sales. I have not sold a bunch of copies, but it holds the highest sale price recieved out of all of my stock sales. I still ponder about just who purchased it, and where it has ended up. Maybe someday I will notice the image somewhere special.

So, stopping the car and getting out to photograph a field of lupines just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. “Istock images” actually allowed one of these lupine images to be listed, which is getting harder and harder to accomplish. So many folks try to get their flower images listed that “Istock images” has quickly filled up with them, and they have since grown tired of such images.

Lengthy exposures

I spent this past week impersonating a mechanic. The salt that gets spread on the winter roads here in North American sure does a good job at eating away floorboards. After taking the seats and the carpeting out of my car I started to grind away on some metal. I would rather be shooting images.

So, I took some time away from the grinding to do some HDR work. One image is called “Blue Doors” and can be found in the town in which I live. It just begs to be photographed each time I pass by. Cape Porpoise is the location for the second image, which is where I often go to get inspired.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Setting your camera up for HDR images.

Please refer to one of my recent blog posts HERE to learn more about HDR photography. Then, please come back and learn how to set your camera up to take HDR images!

The camera that I will be using as a model in this post is a Nikon D200, but all digital SLR cameras operate pretty much the same, they just put the buttons in different places. Plus, you will need a tripod and a Nikon MC-DC2 Remote Release .

Bracketing explained.
There are many types of bracketing available to us in this; the digital age. With digital cameras come all types of bracketing options. Some of these bracketing options are white balance bracketing, flash bracketing, and exposure bracketing.

Exposure bracketing explained.
Often times dubbed the photographers insurance, exposure bracketing is used most frequently by the press. When a photographer finds him/her self in a fast paced shooting environment he/she needs to make certain to never miss the money shot. This is where bracketing and exposure bracketing come in handy.
Exposure bracketing can be set with either an aperture setting or a shutter speed in the priority. In other words, when used with an auto priority mode, you could set (lets say) the shutter speed (shutter priority mode) that you want to remain constant, and only the aperture opening would fluctuate with each shot.

Exposure bracketing is first set up in the cameras’ menu system, and then it’s turned on for use on the fly. Basically you are entering into the camera exactly how far apart you would like each of the exposures to vary in a series of shots, and how many shots are in this series.

Usually the photographer correctly meters (and adjusts) for the scene, and then snaps a bracketed series of images, all of which are of the same scene. When bracketing, each time the shutter release button is pushed a shot in the series is taken. In a typical series of three exposure-compensated images, one will be perfectly metered, one will be exposed at a pre-determined variable difference in exposure (either above or below) the first one, and then the last image in the three shot series will be exposed at a pre-determined variable in exposure (either above or below the first image) thus ensuring that one of the images will be perfect each time.

Simply put: three images are recorded, one perfect, one exposed for the shadows, and one exposed for the highlights. If you have a preference for what order the images are taken (from light to dark, dark to light, ect.) than you can program your digital camera to do just that.

Why bracketing for exposure is important in HDR photography.

Exposure bracketing is what we will use in order to take our multiple HDR images quickly. “Quickly” was used here because if the scene in our HDR image changes too fast, the multiple images will appear to be blurred once edited. This explains why most HDR images are of a static scene. Also, if you set the shutter speed (F-stop) to change throughout the bracketed series, the depth of view might change with them. This, again, makes for impossible editing for a crisp HDR image. Set your aperture to vary in your series of shots. I highly recommend using a Nikon MC-DC2 Remote Release when shooting HDR images, in order to avoid camera shake. Use of a tripod is paramount with HDR imagery, and for this very same reason.

I am going to use the “Manual shooting mode” for this HDR imagery tutorial. I most often keep my camera in manual mode, so it will be easier for me to keep it this way. To be more specific, we are going to set our cameras up for exposure bracketing, and we will want only the aperture to change and not the shutter speed. We will select the three image option for our bracketing exposures, and choose a one third of a stop increase and decrease for the series.

We will use exposure bracketing in order to capture three images of the same scene, but each one will have a different exposure. One image will be exposed for the overall scene, one will be exposed for the shadow detail (plus one third of a stop), and one will be exposed for the highlight detail (minus one third of a stop). Later, you will edit these three bracketed images down into one HDR image!

Before you start editing your bracketed images, please jump over to here in order to see several different ways in which to accomplish the editing task at hand. Also, I posted some great links to some great tutorials.

Nikon MC-DC2 Remote Release
Setting the exposure compensation, made easy.
There are only a couple of things that you must keep in mind when setting up the exposure compensation in your camera for an HDR image. First, how many images do you wish to take in your series of the scene, and secondly, how wide of a difference in exposure do you wish to capture?

Too few images taken at the scene may make for a not so dramatic HDR image, while too great of a difference in exposure (stops) may be too difficult to edit. I suggest that you start easy, and as you gain the skills that are involved, then you will know how to better set up for your scene.

With ease in mind, I suggest that you start with a “three-burst” exposure, and at one third of a stop difference as an exposure. You can always alter these settings as you learn what works best for you.

Here is the easiest way to set up your camera for our HDR image, and then turn on exposure compensation once you arrive on the scene.

First, place your camera into manual shooting mode. Press the “Mode” button found on the top of the Nikon D200, and use the commander dial until “M” is shown in the top LCD window. Please see the images posted along with this entry for more detail.

In camera settings for bracketing.
Next is setting up the camera using the menu system. We are about to input the factors into the camera so that when we want to bracket we can simply turn the bracketing on and then shoot away.

Press the menu button, found on the back of the Nikon D200. Scroll down to the pencil icon, and then select setting “E”, which is “Bracketing/Flash”.

Press the selector pad to the right and scroll down to, and select “E6”, which is “Manual Mode Bracketing”. We don’t want an auto mode bracketing, instead we wish to employ manual. Auto modes use one of the settings that we input, and automatically changes the other setting for a perfect image. This is not what we are looking for.

Press the selector to the right once again, and scroll down to, and select, “flash/aperture”. Press to the right once more in order to select “OK”. This step tells the camera that we wish to have the aperture change, and not the shutter speed, each time we shoot an image in our three shot bracketed series.

How to turn on the bracketing once we are on the scene and ready to shoot.
Study the scene. Decide on an I.S.O. setting, an aperture setting, and shutter speed setting that will correctly capture the scene. This should be the correct meter reading, and settings, for the scene that you are about to shoot. Your three shots will consist of this image, one image exposed above this, and one exposed below this.

Next, press the “plus/minus” button found on the top and right side of the D200. Rotate the main command dial to set your exposure compensation amount, in our case .03. This is how much (in stops and fractions of a stop) you desire the exposure to vary from image to image.

Once that is set, press the “BKT” button, which is the Bracket button, found on the back and left hand side of the Nikon D200. Press and hold this button, and perform the following:

Turn the sub-command dial, found on the front right hand side of the D200, until it looks like the image below. The numbers shown in the LCD screen represent the two factors mentioned in the opening of this post. The number on the left of the LCD screen represents the number of images in our bracketing sequence. Setting to the right of this is the amount of exposure compensation. Make sure that this number is set so that the meter bar below shows one shot above perfect exposure, and one shot below perfect exposure.

Lastly, turn bracketing on already! With the “BKT” button pressed and held, turn the command dial until you see the bracketing icon appear. It is the “BKT” icon. This toggles the bracketing on and off.

Nikon MC-DC2 Remote Release
Compose the image, and then shoot. You will need to take three images, of course, but you knew that.

Thanks for reading the “All Things about Photography” blog, and feel to subscribe so that you don’t miss a post! As always, your comments are always welcome and posted.

Enjoy making your HDR images!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Light painting links to visit.

Exploring the web the other day, I came across some awesome light painting sites and blogs.
For some great people shots, I like what Light has to show. The blog that complements this page can be found here.

Art 6 Now has a Flicker Photo stream that proves that he or she is a master of this technique. Truly amazing work!

A great place to learn about the history of light paintings humble artistic beginnings, visit Dark Roasted Blend. Many popular photographers works can be viewed here, and some are very comical indeed!

For a great video tutorial on how to create your very own light paintings, be sure to stop by one of my favorite sites, Digital Photography School. This is a wonderful resource, with tons of great information.

Thanks for visiting, and please be sure to subscribe as you don’t want to miss out! Please feel free to comment as well, as your thoughts mean a lot to me.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Six simple ways to improve your digital images.

Here are six easy ways to become better at taking digital images, and to ensure years of enjoyment from your gear.

1) Take a local adult education class dealing with digital photography. Learning how cameras work might seem to be below you, with full auto cameras, but that is where you should start. You wouldn’t attempt to star in a film if you hadn’t first taken an acting class, would you? You can pick up all of the digital “lingo” basics, a ton of new tips that you might not have ever learned, and all from a simple nights or weekend class. Spend time picking the instructors brain, and ask all of the questions that you might have. Get your moneys worth!

2) Set aside an hour or so each day and surf the web for digital shooting and digital software editing tutorials and podcasts. With what free time I can find I try to watch a lot of tutorials. Some of the best tutorials are only a minute or two in length, and they can be directed right into your ITunes account so that you never miss a trick. Here are some to get you started in the right direction.

Simple photo life
D-town TV
Scott Kelbys Photoshop insider
Simple photo minute

3) Go to popular photographers’ sites and follow what they teach. If I wanted to learn about something I would ask a pro. Why risk getting bogus information? Here are some of the best sites that I have come across, when dealing with pro’s that share.

Moose Peterson
Squeeze the lime
Alt F
Flash Flavor
Weekly photo tips

4) Purchasing a few simple items of gear and learning when and how to use them can pay off big time. Try out some items designed to make your photography experience easier and more enjoyable like using the correct tripods, filters, software, and lenses for whatever type of images you are shooting. If you can’t find the resources to splurge on expensive items that you feel you are not ready for, consulting the D.I.Y. sites listed below can help you get closer to your ideas!

DIY Photography
Digital Photography School
DIY Photography .net

Learning what certain gear does can improve your understanding of what is achievable. I often ask “How did they do that”, and later figure it out as I read about a new piece of gear that has been released. Anything is possible if you have the right gear, or is it tools?

5) Organizing your gear can save you both time and trouble in the long run. Look into finding the best (safest) camera bag for your shooting environment. Keep your camera bag clean by using a vacuum with a narrow attachment. This will keep dirt and scratches at bay.

Place your expensive memory cards all in one (safe) place using memory card wallets. Flipping the full cards with the label side facing in an opposite direction will quickly let you know which ones to use next. Always format your used memory cards before shooting with them again. Simply deleting the images is not good enough, and it is too time consuming.

6) Protect your investments by obtaining this gear listed below, as they are easy ways to prevent failure in the future.
Camera armor
lens pouches
camera bags
(Image sensor) cleaning kits
(memory) card wallets

Feel free to subscribe, and comments are always welcome!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Getting the most out of a week.

Like most bloggers and digital photography geeks, extra time is hard to find. It seems that every time I feel as if I know something about the world of digital image editing, something new comes along with its learning curve attached.

From the outside, looking in, it appears that I often stay home and do very little. However, most of you digital photographers and bloggers know that this is only partly true. While I am at home, I am usually engrossed in online photography tutorials, watching the latest “How to” DVDs, editing a mountain of images, or catching up on the universe that is the blogsphere. This is how I remain a cutting edge kind of guy; well at least that is what I tell myself.

So just how much can a “stay at home, blog crazed photographer” get accomplished in just one week anyway? I try to make the best out of most situations that I find myself getting into. Here is a week in the life.

I am taking images of a friend’s child every 30 days, for her first year of life. A fun “bath time” shoot gave me some fresh new images to edit. With each new photo session comes the possibility of some fresh stock images, and this session was no exception. I downloaded the model releases found on ISTOCK and DREAMSTIME to simplify the upload process, for the first time, and then began uploading a trillion images.

Next, and before I could finish the edit and upload process, a trip up to see my girlfriend (yes, I used the term “girlfriend” if you are reading this) was in store. I decided to visit with my family while in Northern Maine, since I seldom get the chance. My Niece has the cutest little girl (my Great Niece) and a photo shoot was in the works. What a great time I had while in the custody of such warm and fun folks. Once again, I could smell a stock opportunity arising from the fun images that I took.

Since returning to my castle, it is only now that I am free to blog about how swamped I am. I am slowly editing through the images that are back logged, key wording stock images till my death, and all the while missing on my girlfriend. I am under paid and under appreciated, a fact that all “stay at home, blog crazed photographers” are well aware of.

Please feel free to add your comments to my blog post, and subscribe today if you have not yet done so. You do not want to miss out! Thanks and see you soon, here at “A.T.A.P.”.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Recent shoot with a baby.

Just thought I would post for the weekend, a recent shoot I had this week.

Thanks for looking, and feel free to subscribe. Next post on how these shots were made.

Feel free to view my Flickr stream here!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Creating HDR images.

Today I tried my hand at taking and creating my first ever HDR images.

What is an HDR image, and how does one take and create them?

These are great questions. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. A HDR image is an image that one creates to show for both the detail in the shadows and the highlights. A normal image is either set to expose for one or the other, so an HDR image can be very impressive to see.

How to make your own HDR images.

HDR images are created by combining two or more images that are captured with a resulting HDR image in mind, using software to merge them. The images must be taken in a certain fashion, and the same is true for the editing procedure.

What gear should you use?

Creating your own HDR image is simple, once you understand what you are after. What I mean is that once you understand that you need three images to combine (an image that is exposed for the highlights, one for the shadows, and one overall proper exposure) in order to get one HDR image, you will be further along. These images need to be as close to the same point of reference as possible, so use a tripod. Try to choose a subject that does not move, or make sure that the wind is not blowing things around too much. Any sort of movement will show up as you begin to merge these images.

Secondly, if you have a remote shutter release, now is the time to use it. If you don’t have one, try using the self timer in your camera. The idea here is to get as little camera shake as you possibly can.

Bracketing for exposure.

Next you will need a way to quickly obtain three different exposure values of the same image. The easiest way to do this is by using bracketing. Bracketing is commonly known as “photographers insurance” because some pros use it to make sure that they never miss a shot exposure. Dig out your cameras manual and get bracketing turned on.

The bracketing that you will want to use is “Exposure Bracketing”. Other types of bracketing are white balance bracketing and flash bracketing. Neither of these applies to our quest for an HDR image, so forget about those for now. With your exposure bracketing it is paramount that you make sure that the shutter speed is what changes, and not the aperture. You do not want three images, each with different depth of view in them. I found that a bracketing of 1 stop works fine but you will want to play around some. Read the other tutorials (below) that I supply links to as they discuss some great bracketing procedures more in depth. Bottom line is to use bracketing to get three different images with the same depth of view. I found that putting the camera in manual mode and changing the shutter speed settings myself (as I shot) took too long and supplied way too much unwanted camera shake.

Tutorials time.

I have tried out several different online tutorials in order to obtain several different looking HDR images, all of which are from the same three RAW/NEF files. These three images will become jpegs and will be used to create three HDR images. I just did three different methods. Here are the three images that I am going to use to create my first ever HDR images.

Then it was time to edit.

I found several promising online tutorials for creating HDR images to choose from, and each one that I have listed (in order) seemed to take an increasing amount of skill. I love the fact that Photoshop allows so many different ways to get to the same place. Try them all, and see which one works best for you. You might find that certain methods work better or worse than others for the images that you are trying to convert.

This first HDR image was made using the tutorial found on this site. It seemed to be the most basic and the easiest Photoshop CS2 HDR tutorial out of the bunch that I tried out. However this HDR image seems to lack a lot of the elements that I was trying to achieve.

The second HDR image merging tutorial that I used can be found here. This seemed to be a little bit more precise, and allowed for better control as it employs layer masks in the process. I like this fact because layer masks give us better control of where to edit and to what degree to edit it. If you ask me, the results are far superior when compared to the first tutorial, but it took twice as long to execute. Plus, it demands a better understanding of working with layer masks.

The third tutorial that I used can be found here. There are three choices of editing for an HDR image on this site, and I went with the second. Once again it employs the use of layer masks. However this certain tutorial was like none other that I had read up to this point. This tutorial is very creative, and comes with some great shortcut keystrokes included. It also uses only the lightest image and the darkest image of the three that you may have shot.

Please take the second that it takes and subscribe to "All Things About Photography" now so you never miss another great post! Feel free to comment, as always, and have fun creating your own HDR images!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Front curtain sync fun.

The other day boredom got the best of me. I have been thinking of a fun photo set up for about a week now, and the time had come to set it up. I wanted to play with the Front Curtain Sync option so that I could use the flash and yet still get some “shutter hang time”. I had an idea for a fun shoot, and then one day the way to set it all up just came to me.

But first, what is front curtain sync?

Front curtain sync is a shooting mode that you can choose to use in order to obtain some more creative images. It is commonly known as “flash and burn”, and that actually describes it better. To use the adage “in a nutshell” to explain front curtain sync, it would go something like this; as the shutter is released the flash fires and then the shutter remains open in order to “burn in” the rest of the image. The shutter opens, and captures the part of the image covered by the flash, but the rest of the image needs more time to develop. Nutshell closed.

There is both a front, and rear curtain sync. By simply reversing the time that the flash fires (either at the opening or the closing of a long shutter opening) the name is given.
I like to play with front and rear curtain syncs and I try to get more and more creative. We have all seen the images of a train going by with the flash firing in one of these modes. Most camera manuals proudly show such images in their pages, and I suppose that these images are helpful, but boring.

Setting it up.

I had some time to “flash and burn away”, so I took it step by step. I made only one or two mistakes which I will share with you all. I started by securing a tripod on the passenger side floor of my car. I ended up using a seat belt, some Bogen Super Clamps, and a stiff flexible arm; all in unison, to lock down my tripod.

I added my Nikon D-200 to the tripod, and attached a MC-30 in order to fire the camera from the driver’s seat, while driving. Next I used another Bogen Super Clamp in order to attach a single Nikon SB-28 to one of the tripods legs. This flash was fired wirelessly, all though that probably wasn’t necessary at all since it was so close to the camera body. I only intended to light up my head with the flash, so I added a gridded snoot to the flash in order to better contain the light spillage.

Camera settings.

I placed the camera in auto focus, but I later found out that I had made a mistake. I failed to set the spot of focus to the spot that my head would soon be. I think that the focus was on my driver’s side door, but that’s how we all learn, right? I could set the focus as I drove along by pressing the MC-30 down about half way. Once it was focused I could time the shutter release to expose the image as I passed by interesting background lights.

In order to get the camera into Front Curtain Sync mode, I turned the cameras shooting mode to Manual. Well, it is always on manual mode, but for sake of this post let’s just say that I did this step.

Next, I dialed down the shutter speed to taste, testing the time that the shutter remained open, and stuck with a speed of 2.5, an aperture of F5, and an I.S.O. of 100. An I.S.O. of 100 would allow for very low noise with the long shutter speed that I was using.

I set the flash settings to front curtain sync, which is found on page 78 of the D-200s’ manual. The second mistake was possibly made right here. I can not be sure that I had to do this step because it is for the built in camera flash. It seemed to work fine both ways, but it made me feel better so I did it. If you decide to join me in this step, simply press and hold the flash setting button (lightning bolt) found on the camera body, and turn the aperture dial until the front curtain sync until the front curtain sync is displayed. Once again, it didn’t seem to make a difference, and I feel this step can be avoided completely.

I set the SB-28 flash on manual mode, I.S.O. 100, and at 1/16 power. After several test shots it was aimed and I was ready to roll. Please, do not flash yourself as you drive your car. I was driving very slowly, and most often in empty parking lots. I did see some interest in what I was doing, and I halted my operation as the police drove past me. I’m just saying…….

I would really love to hear your stories and your comments. Feel free to subscribe to the “All Things about Photography blog” now, as you may just miss the next great post.

Questions are always answered, and please be careful if you try this set up.