Friday, January 30, 2009

John Paul Caponigro

John Paul Caponigro
Drawing with light
21st century dodging and burning

I have recently had the pleasure of watching yet another life changing masterpiece. The ways in which I used to work so hard to achieve a complex edit or a complex result are now over. Little did I know that it was possible to achieve such incredibly intricate edits to my images by using some easy to understand techniques. Not only has the impossible become possible, but the speed at which to get there has been reduced to mere seconds thanks to John Paul Caponigros’ DVD set titled “Drawing with light”, “21st century dodging and burning”.

John Paul Caponigro has taken a lifetime of photography skills (like dodging and burning) and has come up with a great way to reproduce them using a digital method. However, we are not simply dodging and burning shadows and highlights here. Instead John explains, in detail, just what photography techniques and methods make an image appear to be more three dimensional. He then goes to great lengths showing the viewer how to make these simple edits using some great Photoshop techniques.

This DVD set goes way beyond some simple dodging and burning techniques. John has some great ways of achieving some awesome results. I learned that with each adjustment, in Photoshop, comes an unwanted side effect. For just one quick example, with a boost in saturation comes a boost in contrast. This is perhaps true when performing these functions in the way that I used to do them. Well, unwanted side effects are now a thing of the past in my editing workflow, thanks to “Drawing with light”.

John takes the viewer into a world of editing theory here, and holds our hand the entire time. He explains the theory behind each of his edits, and then he explains how he performs the very edit itself. But he doesn’t stop there.

He also goes into some different methods of editing in which to get to (or to reach) the same results. John does this because not all images are going to need the same sort of edit to get the needed results. Each image is different in its own way.

I stayed with John the entire way through the DVD, and than many times over and again. He has a way of explaining each technique to the viewer in terms that even I understood. That is no easy task, by the way. There is a ton of great techniques in this multi-DVD and I wanted to learn them all without forgetting any of them. This may very well mean that I will need to delete my entire freshman year of high school from my memory, but this is worth the exchange!

I have often starred at images that contain a radiating warm summer glow, and wondered how it is that the photographer captured it so well in the final image. My mind used to shout out to me that they way to get this is to darken everything else in the image, but I knew that this was not the way.

Well, my hunch was correct. John shows us all how to (only) select the shadows or the highlights of an image and cool them off or warm them up. He also shows ways to select the luminous parts of an image and give them that afternoon glow that I so admired in others images. Little did I know that after grasping only a few easy techniques, that I, too, could now get this look in my own images. What a great DVD set this is.

Perhaps this is not the greatest focus of this entire DVD set! Included in the conversations, as he works at editing, are his methods of actually selecting parts of images, and this is gold. Ever spend the entire afternoon selecting a single tree in order to edit it? Well, me too. However, I will no longer be spending the same amount of time performing those edits. John Paul Caponigro shows many time saving ways in which to select different types of items in our images, and how to select them easily and fast!

Then, as if this already is not enough, he not only sheds some light on gradients, but he explains the many different types of gradients in Photoshop, and ways in which to use them wisely as you edit your images. My editing workflow has expanded in technique and reduced in total time.
To sum up this post, not only is this one of my “Must have” DVD’s, but put this one up on the top of your list. This is one of those DVD’s that ranks up there with Vincent Versace and Dean Collins.

I have grown. That is truly how I feel. I have not only learned how to perform some very cool edits, but John Paul Caponigro has taught me what to aim for while editing. He has shown me what is truly possible in digital photography, and how to train my “editing thought process” to look at my images and then pull out all three dimensions.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Portraits with friends

The other day I spent an entire morning and afternoon at the airport, waiting on a friend of mine. She was inbound, and I was her ride home. Well, I confused the arrival time and stayed in the terminal most of the day.

As a make up project, we decided to shoot together, in a day or two. Her dog, Bobin came along and we had a blast! Here are some shots from our day of shooting.....

Well it is off to charge up the batteries and clean up my lenses in order to get ready for tomorrows Strobist meet up. This will be my first meeting with the gang, and I am very happy to attend. I have plans on meeting a ton of like minded folks, and learning more than I can remember!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Alien skin filters.

Recently I purchased a new laptop and decided that it was time to try some new Alien Skin Eye Candy 6 Plug in Photoshop filters. I like the results so much that I use them with almost all of my portrait photography now. I would like to take a moment and explain what these filters are, how I use them, and where to get them.

First of all, Alien Skin makes rather easy to use (and very awesome) products for image editing software. These product packages are actually software plug inns that are a snap to install. They hide in your photo editing software (Photoshop, Paint shop pro, ect.) and you don’t even know that they are there until you need them.

I use Photoshop the most, and in Photoshop they are found under the “filters” tab. Once you select the Alien Skin filter that you wish to apply to an image, a mini browser window will automatically open up. This makes it a snap to adjust the level of filtered effect you wish to apply to your image.

The Alien Skin Eye Candy 6 Plug in that I am using in this particular blog is found in their “Exposure 2” filter package. This package comes packed with so many different types of film “looks” to apply to your images that it will make your head spin. Included in this particular package are both a ton of color film types of filters and also tons of black and white film looks. I love and I use the “focus”, or softening filters in the color film selection of”Exposure2” the most. These filter selections remove the hard lines and hard edges and elegantly soften up the entire image. There are many different styles of focuses to choose from so try them all before choosing one to try out.

The working image that I will use in this blog entry is one that I took just for this blog. I started with a quick photograph and opened it up with Photoshop. Notice the detail in the hair and face as that is what I want to alter. It should look more like a glamour shot instead of a snap shot. I use these filters after all of my editing is complete. I treat them as the last couple of things to edit in my workflow. So, to re-cap, this image is done as far as any color correction or any other editing.
Alien Skin Eye Candy 6 Plug in

I next looked under “Filters” and then I selected “Exposure 2” and then “color”, which stands for the different color film types. Using Alien Skin filters will automatically place a new layer in the Photoshop image all by itself, so don’t bother to create a new layer first.

The filter then opens up its own browser window where you can alter the color, tone, focus, and grain amounts, of the chosen Alien Skin filter. You can also zoom in and out of the image in the mini browser, with the effected filter in many different positions of the image. I like the diagonal view the best since I can usually see the “before and after” on the same screen. The next image shows all of this great stuff in better detail.

With the filter chosen and applied, it is time to take it away. Why would you want to take it away? Well, in my judgment a portrait should have at least the eyes in focus. This is not a rule per say, but something that I like to have in my images. With that said, I add a layer mask to the new filtered layer. I blow it up large to make it easy to remove the filter (paint tool with black color chosen) from the eyes. I don’t remove it completely, but instead I set the opacity of the paintbrush tool to about 85 percent. Removing it all (100 percent) makes the sharpness of the unfiltered eyes stand out too much in the finished image. With the opacity lowered, I then paint away the filter from the eyes.

Alien Skin Eye Candy 6 Plug in

I would like to add that often times I change the opacity again (to about 90 percent) in order to erase the filter from the rest of the face. The layer mask is a great way to perform these alterations quickly and easily.

Next I lower the opacity of the filtered layer to between 75 and 85 percent. This allows a sample of the background (sharp) layer to come through. Most often it depends on the image that you are working on, so make sure you alter the opacity to taste.


All that is left is to save it as a PSD or flatten it and save it as a JPEG. Here are the before and after images.

Alien Skin Eye Candy 6 Plug in
Give the Alien Skin website a look. I love their products because they are fast to apply and easy to use. This whole softening business would have been a pain in the butt to perform without these great filters. Don’t forget that you can change the opacity of the paint tool (in the layer mask) in order to remove different levels of the applied filter from the eyes, nose, face, from that of the rest of the filtered image.

See you next time!