Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy father's day!

To all the dads out there, happy father’s day!

Here's a preview of a photo I recently shot of a friend's family. The kids were the ones from the last post -- the iPad shot. This was just a really sweet moment and a great way to celebrate father's day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Kids love the iPad

I'm always so impressed that kids so quickly adapt and are able to use iOS devices. I had a family portrait session over the weekend with the Le family. I shot this while we were just hanging out at the house before we went out for the shoot. The kids look perfect for an iPad commercial.

The Canon 7D kicked ass for doing family portraits. I really appreciated the high speed frame rate. We did some pretty dynamic photos and being able to sit on the shutter button was awesome. The downside of a high frame rate shooting RAW is the massive amounts of memory this consumed. Rarely have I ever actually used up a full 16GB in one shoot. I did that and then some.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Large Files are Weighing You Down

I've been doing most of my post-processing in Photoshop these days. My subject matter has moved away from events and stills to studio/location shoots with models. I've setup Aperture to use Photoshop as my external editor. I've also set the default file format for external editing to be 16-bit PSDs. While I may lose access to some filters in Photoshop because of the higher bit depth, I rarely use them in my post processing. The 16-bit color depth is kind of like shooting in RAW. I may not need the extra information, it's nice to know that it's there. The problem with a 16-bit PSD file is that it's massive. I'm shooting with a Canon 7D. I'm already cranking out 25 megapixel files that are around 23MB a piece. Make that into a PSD file, and BAM! over 50MB. Throw in a couple of layers and it'll start choking most machines.

I've now made it a habit to resize all of my PSD files. I try and think about where and how the photos may be used. If it's only ever going to be seen on the web, then I'll drop them down to 1800x1200 and process from there. That's almost 1080p quality and good enough for most desktops. If I think that the photo will be used for print, I'll resize the file to 3600x2400. That's more than enough for a 8x10 print. I discovered I haven't really had a reason when I would need a 25 megapixel image yet. Yet.

The smaller file helps in a lot of different ways. Obviously it takes up less space. But more importantly, it's a lot faster to process. Many of the minor blemishes go away as part of the resizing. Applications/plug-ins/filters all run a lot faster as well. All in all, it's a way to speed up the process. I recently spent a few hours on one photo cleaning up specs of dust on the seamless. Had I resized the photo to a smaller size, the time I would have spent would have been dramatically reduced and the final result would have been the same.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Shoot with Jina 2/20

I already posted these pictures to my Facebook page, but I should start mentioning my shoots on my blog as well. I had the fortunate opportunity to work with a new model, Jina D (MM #1679133). I borrowed some guns from a friend and set up the shoot down at the Inscape Arts building. Like every single shoot I do, after I go through the pictures I get ideas for shots I may have missed. But I've done three shoots now in that same space so I think it's time to explore other parts of that building.

FYI, Inscape Arts used to be the Immigration building. There's a lot of history there as well as some dirty spaces -- which adds a lot of character in a shoot. After they finish renovations, there is a plan to make this building a historic landmark.

Check out the photostream for more.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Exposure Triangle

The key to properly exposing a photo is evenly balancing the three points of the exposure triangle: ISO, shutter speed, and aperture.

  • Bump up the ISO and you can use a smaller the aperture or faster shutter speed.  But the downside of a faster ISO is the introduction of noise. 
  • Slow down the shutter and you can use a lower ISO or smaller aperture. Again, there's a downside. Slower shutters require both the subject and the camera to be stable.
  • Use a larger aperture and you can use a lower ISO or faster shutter speed. Wider apertures is dependent upon the lens. There's a direct correlation between wide apertures and cost.
Fortunately technology is making it easier to balance the triangle:
  • Manufactures are constantly trying to out do each other with higher ISO capabilities combined with better noise reduction.
  • Image stabilization makes it easier to handhold a camera through longer exposures.
  • Well, glass is still expensive. But lenses are getting sharper and sharper with each generation.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What's It All About?

Recently somebody asked me what direction I'm trying to take with my photography. Honestly, I don't know. I like challenging myself. That's what keeps me motivated. I've been trying to learn the ways of Joe McNally or Strobist. It's simultaneously freeing and scary to be in control of lights. No longer is it about capturing that perfect shot at just the right moment. Now I'm creating the scene and manipulating the light to get what I want out of the scene. There's a lot more planning and thinking before even the first photo gets taken. That's exciting.

I also really like to process photos. It's a total chore, but when I start processing on a new person or project I get really excited. I'm finding flaws with what I shot. It's a time when I am purposely evaluating and diving deep into my work. It's also exhilarating to take a mediocre photo and to make it a great photo. A little crop. A little contrast and saturation. A few hours of Photoshop, and voilรก! Beauty. I get tons of satisfaction when I do that.

Lately I've been taking photos of glamour models. It's not everybody's cup of tea, but it has been really fun thus far. It goes back to what challenges me. I'm able to set the scene the way I want -- lighting, backdrop, etc. Since they are there for me and my photos, I can take as much time as I want to get things right. It's my shoot. I'm not producing for somebody else's needs. This is in contrast to taking photos for friends or clients that are looking for specific things. I'm not cranking out a bazillion shots just to cover every second. I just need to get the ONE shot. Most importantly, I'm shooting for ME.

Another great thing about shooting models is the variety. I don't know about other people, but for me, most of my photo collection is of the same small group of people. I'm not counting all the random event photos (of which there are literally tens of thousands). But photos that I would want to spend hours with in Photoshop.

With variety comes new challenges in post-processing. Everybody has flaws. That's why we airbrush and Photoshop. By shooting a bunch of different people, I get to try different and new techniques. I'm also discovering new ways to use the tools I already have. There's an immense sense of accomplishment for doing what I didn't think was possible before.

So what direction will Woodson Photography go? I'm not quite sure. If I can keep a steady stream of people going through the studio that would be great. But then I'd feel confined to being in a studio. If I was only ever doing portraits, I know I will want to start doing candids and events again. All I know right now is that I like taking pictures of people. It's exciting to capture a moment and reflect my vision upon that. Be that moment one that I created or one that was spontaneous.

The Perfect Lie - Processing

I've been using Cameron Rad's method for doing touch up for the last few weeks. Thus far, I think it's the most effective at keeping the face and skin looking realistic. If you watch the tutorial it can seem pretty daunting at first. But after a few tries, it goes pretty quick.

I have some changes/additions I would make to his tutorial. So the below comments will only make sense after viewing.

  • Don't do dodging and burning on the same layer. Put Lightening and Darkening on separate layers. Also, set the Darkening layer opacity to 30% or so. At 100% with the burn tool at 4%, the shadows it creates are too strong.
  • A good way to remove bags under the eyes is to use the stamp tool (at 20%) and clone in some lighter color on the Tones layer. Then use the Healing Brush to smooth out and blur the edges from the cloning. On the Texture layer, use the Healing Brush to remove the lines/wrinkles from the bags. It'll make it look a lot more natural than just using Healing Brush on the texture layer.
  • I use 10% dodge for the hair and the eyes. The eyes I may go back over multiple times.
  • When applying dodge/burn over the same area multiple times, there may end up being bright/dark spots. To eliminate, I go to the respective layer and use the Paint Brush tool. I sample the correct grey value and paint over that area.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

BW Comparison between Aperture and Photoshop

The whole point of Aperture is to reduce the dependency on larger, more complicated applications like Photoshop. I find working in Aperture to be far faster when working with a large number of photos. But ultimately, there are still more than a few tweaks that I can only do in Photoshop that I can't achieve in Aperture. A lot of my issues stem around the performance of the brushes (see my previous posts). Nonetheless, for certain effects it's totally possible to achieve basically the same results as in Photoshop. I used to do my cross processing in Photoshop, but now I've saved it as a preset in Aperture. A similar preset is also preinstalled with Aperture 3. Over at ChaseJarvis.com, he's posted up an article comparing what can be achieved in a black and white photo between Aperture and Photoshop.