Tag Archives: how to

“Communion” Portraits

16 Jan

In December, I photographed Joanna Coblentz’s fashion line for the show, “Communion,” which featured photographs by Chloe Reyes and a fashion show by Coblentz. Before the show, I took some great shots in a set that I built on the second floor of the Roosevelt 2.o in Ybor City, where the show was held. The set was really cool, complete with window frames hanging from the ceiling. Right now I’m working on getting those photos published, so they are still in hiding until further notice.

After the show, I took some quick portraits of the models in a really challenging lighting situation. I just wanted to share my way of working around this challenging light.

The whole place was pretty dark, except for some track lighting pointed at the artwork and a clamp desk lamp with bendable neck that happened to be right behind me. So I had the models stand so that the track lighting bounced off the wall onto the right side of their faces for fill light, and I just pointed the clamp desk light directly at their face for a key light. Of course, having a 50mm l.4 lens on my Canon 7D helped a lot with this darkness. I stopped all the way down to 1.4 and shot away. Results below. Notice the beautiful bokeh in the background.

Model: Blake Smith

Model: Jess Lytle

Model: Tasha Chamberlain

Model: Mai Dang

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Tutorial: Eva and Blackbird

14 Aug

This is a quick explanation of my process to create this photo. If you are not familiar with Photoshop layers, selection tools, and filters, it will be a bit difficult to follow, as I do not explain in detail all of the actions I used. An intermediate user who is familiar with Photoshop tools will find this a challenge, but simple enough to follow. An advanced user won’t even bother to read this, as they should already know the general idea of how I created this composite.

1. I started with the photo of Eva and a photo of the blackbird. When I was searching for a photo of the blackbird, I made sure its leg positioning and body positioning would make sense in the photo with Eva.I used the photo of Eva as the original layer, and then went to the photo of the bird and selected the blackbird using the pen tool. I feathered the selection by 1 pixel, then copied the selection to a separate layer on top of the original blackbird photo. I used the lasso tool to select all of the tiny details, hairs and feathers of the bird, then copied that layer on top of the blackbird selection layer. I then used the eraser on that layer to clean it up. This is a time-consuming process; if you want it to be perfect you should spend the majority of your time on this selection. Selection techniques vary, but I like to use the pen tool. Try your hand at magnetic lasso, lasso, etc. There are even ways to use the color channels to make a selection. I will not get into that, as it could be an entire tutorial on its own. Merge the bird selection and feather layers, but leave the original photo as the background.

2. Next I dragged the bird onto the photo of Eva. You may need to resize the bird in order to scale it properly. Use the shift key to maintain the dimensions of the bird, otherwise it will appear skewed and thus, AMATEUR. I positioned the bird over her hand, and made sure the legs aligned with her fingers. I had to use the transform tools to get the bird’s feet to appear wrapped around her hand. This is in the Edit>Transform menu. Also, I used the Liquify filter to nudge the feet and get them perfect. This is in the Filters>Liquify. Use the Smudge Tool under the Liquify filter in this instance, although this is a powerful filter and can be used in a variety of situations. Again, the Liquify filter is a tutorial on its own.

3. The layers are still separate at this point. I burned Eva’s fingers under the bird to give the appearance of shadow, so it looks like it’s really there. Everything casts a shadow. VERY IMPORTANT thing to remember when compositing. Many a Photoshop fumble has been made with the failure to give things shadows. Also, I used the dodge tool to lighten up the bird, so that the lighting on the bird and Eva was about the same. Try to look at the photo as a whole and make sure the lighting matches. This is key in making the composite blend and look natural.

4. Next I adjusted the color of the bird. The original photo of the bird had a very warm tint, with gold in the highlights. I used the Adjust menu to lower the saturation and then used the color balance to bring some more blue into the bird, until the blacks and highlights of the bird matched the blacks and highlights of Eva.

5. You can add a Photo Filter to warm it up or cool it down and further bind the composite together. Also, adjusting color, saturation and hue on the whole photo helps to blend it. Use your own judgment and preferences to adjust color on the entire photo.

And that’s it. Pretty simple. This process may take a few hours, because there is a lot of precision work involved in the selection.

Simple SLR Camera Users Guide

1 Jul

Here is an awesome and cool-looking supplement to the article I wrote a couple weeks ago about manually operating your SLR camera! This is a great way to visualize the functions of aperture and shutter speed.

Introduction to DSLR Photography

15 Jun

DSLR photography becomes more and more accessible every day. This is partly because the price of these cameras is getting lower, while the features and ease of use are improving exponentially. In case you didn’t know, DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. In short, these are the kind of cameras with interchangeable lenses. There is a lengthy explanation available here… but for now I want to help you take advantage of just a few of the amazing features that DSLRs offer.

First, we need a quick lesson on shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Understanding these three facets of photography will provide you with a solid foundation. If you can master these, you will be able to manipulate your camera instantly in any lighting situation. Of course, mastering shutter speed, aperture and ISO is no easy task, but if you want to create beautiful, high quality images and push the limits of creativity with your photography, then these will be important.

Visualize the way the camera works so that you can more fully understand what I am about to describe. You press the button to take a photo. The shutter in the camera opens to allow light into the camera and onto the digital sensor. The lens also has an opening, called the aperture, that allows light into the camera and onto the sensor. Both of these openings can be adjusted to control how much light is allowed onto the sensor of the camera, but they also control other aspects of the resulting image, such as depth of field and sharpness. These will be discussed another time.

Shutter speed. This is how quickly the shutter in the camera opens and closes. It is measured in fractions of a second. If you look at the shutter speed on your camera screen, it appears as a number. Let’s say the number on your camera now says 50. This means that the shutter in your camera is opening and closing at a rate of 1/50 of a second. That sounds fast, but shutter speeds can go up to 1/8000 of a second. Now, slower shutter speeds allow more light into the camera. If you visualize the shutter opening and closing, you can imagine that a shutter opening very slowly gives more time for more light to enter. So, if you are working in low light situations, such as indoors, or at dusk, you will want to lower your shutter speed to capture more light. However, also keep in mind that the longer the shutter is open, the more movement is captured. If you are taking a picture of a person laughing or walking, or even the leaves of a tree blowing in the wind, that movement will be captured by the camera sensor and appear as blurs in the photo. Conversely, a fast shutter speed has the ability to literally freeze motion. If the shutter speed is high enough, you can capture such a minute piece of motion that it will be clear, even if the subject is moving very fast, like an Indie 500 race car. A good rule of thumb for shutter speed is this: if you’re shooting without using a tripod, the lowest shutter speed you should use is 1/60. This is the absolute lowest. I try not to shoot without a tripod at anything lower than 1/125 if possible.

Aperture. The aperture is how wide the camera lens opens. Now, aperture can be confusing for many people because of the way it is expressed numerically. Aperture is denoted by f-stops. A lower f-stop means that the aperture is open wider. So an aperture of f22 is the smallest. This is something that you will have to become accustomed to over time and with a lot of practice. Lenses with lower f-stops are very useful in low light situations, because they allow more light in so that you can set the shutter speed higher, to obtain a sharper image. Keep in mind, though, that low f-stops can also create a softer focus, so if you experiment with different combinations of aperture and f-stop, you can see what works best for the light you are working with as well as the feel of the image you want to achieve.

ISO. The ISO measures the sensitivity of the film (sensor), to light. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive your camera sensor is to light, and the grainier the image. Lower ISOs yield sharper images. Keep this in mind when you are adjusting your ISO. If you want a “grainy effect,” then using an ISO of 800 or higher is appropriate, but stay away from ISOs that high if you want sharp, clean edges on your images. The newer DSLRs are better at reducing noise at high ISOs, but it still exists to some degree, so try to stick to using the shutter and aperture to bring more light into your images.

The best way to truly learn these 3 light manipulators is to experiment with your camera. Learn how to set them manually and go out and start playing with different combinations.