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 voilá! 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, he's posted up an article comparing what can be achieved in a black and white photo between Aperture and Photoshop.