March 23, 2015

Adventures In Editing: Blowing Bubbles

My daughter had Spring Break last week and we stayed home. It was a great opportunity to engage in some fun activities and play around with my camera! After a neighborhood egg hunt, she wanted to play in the back yard with the bubbles she had received.

I put my favorite lens on the camera - the 85mm 1.8 - and we headed out.

It was a warm day and the sun was out. We were in partial shade, not glaring sun this time. I got a number of great shots, but this was my favorite. Here's what I did after importing it into Lightroom:

Click on image to view larger

Since I had enjoyed the effect of the "Dreamy" preset I used before, the first thing I did was see how it would impact this image. And I loved it.

Next I did some overall sharpening and luminance smoothing (noise reduction). Although not much was needed. And I didn't have to sharpen around the eyes; they were already tack sharp. I also did not like the way the "Iris Enhance" tool I normally love changed the look of her eyes in this image. So I undid that change after I had made it.

I reduced the highlights somewhat so her hand in the foreground, which is in full sun, did not distract too much. Then I changed the white balance to, "Daylight" from, "As Shot." I really liked the sun kissed look that gave the image. Especially since my subject really was out in the sun.

I reduced the red hue a touch to try to bring down her flushed cheeks so they weren't the focus of the photograph. And increased the green hue to highlight her eyes and the beautiful background.

My daughter does have beads of sweat on her forehead and upper lip. But to me, that was part of the scene. So I did nothing to try to alter it.

I did try to to work with the triangle of light on her cheek because I didn't love the look of it. But anything I tried looked obvious and unnatural. This was a case of me shooting in the moment. I was not positioning or directing my child in any way in an attempt to control the light. I was simply working to capture a moment.

And that same light that hits her cheek also makes her hair glow and the bubbles incandescent. Those elements of the image are, to me, positive.

I like this image so much it is currently my desktop background.

March 11, 2015

Adventures In Editing: Under the Glaring Sun

The sun was high in the sky. There were no clouds and little shade. I had three tired children the morning after the time change. Not ideal shooting conditions.

The time and location had been the client's choosing. I simply had to do the best I could under the circumstances. That is my job as the hired photographer.

I knew the images I captured would require editing. I played with my settings to attempt to control and limit the amount of light reaching the sensor, and relied heavily on the image histograms to make sure I would have something to work with.

If you are not familiar, a histogram is a graph that provides information about the exposure and contrast of an image. You can Google it to learn more. But the basic and most important thing to remember is - you normally don't want to see your image's information touching either the left (dark) or right (bright) side of the graph.

If this happens, you have lost detail in parts of your image you cannot recover. I think this graphic from Digital Camera World demonstrates it well:

There may be cases where you are going for a super dark or light look. It is all about aesthetic. But that did not apply for me with this shoot.

The image preview in camera for the shot I am going to spotlight this week's Adventures in Editing looked washed out. But I knew from the histogram the detail was there, and could therefore be brought out once I imported it to Lightroom:

Click on image to view larger

When I am photographing children, my goal is to have their personality shine through. Even when taking posed shots, as I was in this case, I strive for natural, casual looks. I love to capture them when their attention is on something other than the camera, because they are more likely to be themselves in those moments.

It is also great to get them looking at the camera right after their attention has been drawn away, before they have had time to adjust (to what they think you want to see). You get less of a cheesy grin and more of a look characteristic to the child. Here is the shot I captured immediately after the one above:

There was a tonal quality to these shots I liked as well. When I began to edit the images, I wanted to bring out the color not only in the subject, but also the stone she is standing in front of. I wanted it to look like it did in real life.

I increased the sharpness and dialed down the exposure a touch. I then increased the contrast, saturation, and vibrance. In the first image I did not adjust the highlights. In the second I dialed them down. I added a vignette to both to help place the emphasis on the subject.

That was it. And the result? The images reflected what I saw with my eyes when I shot them. Mission accomplished.

March 2, 2015

Adventures In Editing - The Eyes Have It

Personally, I measure the success of my people photos by how well I have captured the eyes. If they are not sharp, if they do not draw your attention immediately, I consider that photograph a failure.

Because as the saying goes, "The eyes have it."

My goal, whether shooting an individual or a group, is to make sure the eyes are the focus (pun intended) of the image. And that is not always easy to do. In fact, it is often quite challenging.

The photo below is one I took of my daughter in the bathtub. We were just fooling around. Having recently seen the movie The Song of the Sea, she was pretending to be a, "Selkie." She's not always in the mood to have her photo taken, but in this instance she was. So I seized it.

This shot was my favorite. Here are the steps I took in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to edit it:

Click on image to view larger

As with every image I import into Lightroom, I began by sharpening and noise reduction. I used the heal brush tool to remove a few distracting hairs on her forehead, and some food around the corner of her mouth.

I bumped up the saturation a bit and increased the vibrance. Then I increased the sharpness around the eye area even more. And used my go-to tool, Iris Enhance.

With this image, I decided to play around with the Clean Workflow set of presets I purchased from Greater Than Gatsby. I tried out several before settling on one titled, "Dreamy Edit." I really like the tone of her skin and the overall look of the image. It is dreamy, and I love the end result!

Last week I had someone comment on Facebook, "Editing takes soooo much time!" The process does not need to be a tedious or timely. It can be relatively quick, even fun. The key is to start out with a strong image, know your software and use the tools you have available to you.

Lightroom comes with a number of presets. They can offer some shortcuts to the editing process. You'll find them in the far left menu bar of your screen when in the program. You can even set your own. And, you can purchase and import third party presets as I have.

Pressing the shutter is only the beginning...

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