Monthly Archives: July 2007

Link Roundup 07-07-07

  • Mark Story Photography — Living In Three Centuries
    Amazing portrait photography project. A must see.
  • Fredrik Ödman Photography
    Amazingly screwed up and beautiful images.
  • How To Photograph Dragonflies @ Wonderful Photos
    Dragonflies are very photogenic and easily approachable once you understand their behavior. This article features an in-depth tutorial to shooting dragonflies and a collection of fantastic photos.
  • Photographic Lights And Lighting @ Food Photography Blog
    Lights are tools to be used by photographers to create their final products. There are many different kinds of lights, but this article deals with those light sources related to studio strobe lighting.
  • The Discipline Of Composing Full Frame @ Beyond The Obvious
    There’s an aesthetic discipline in photography which has all but dropped off the radar these days. It’s to make your composition in camera using the full available frame and keep that through to the final print without any cropping.
  • 5 Ways To Make Your Texture Photos Pop! @ Goldengod
    Highlighting an important photographic element such as lighting, composition, or subject matter can make your photo attract attention. One of the most commonly overlooked elements you can focus on is texture.

Add Impact To Your Photos With “The Rule Of Three”

Three is a powerful number when it comes to visual compositions such as a photograph. I’m not talking about the classic rule of thirds, but the less mainstream “Rule of Three” — a powerful composition guideline that can add a tremendous amount of visual impact to your photos.

I was inspired to write this post by Daniel Scocco at the Daily Blog Tips, in his most recent group writing project titled “Blog Project: Three“. He has asked his readers to write a post about the number three, on any topic whatsoever.

Three Geese

Take a look at the photo above. How many birds do you see? This photo is a fairly obvious example of the rule of three — there are three geese in the shot. OK, so maybe it’s not the most impressive photo you’ve ever seen, but it would certainly have less impact if there were two or four geese rather than three. Take a look at the shot below — and try to ignore my poor clone job. It’s just not as good, right?

Two Geese

That’s the power of three. It’s more visually appealing to have three of something rather than two or four. It doesn’t even have to be the main subject that utilizes this rule, it can be applied to secondary subjects or background materials. Here’s another example.

Triple Drop

So you see, three of something can add some extra impact to your photos. The rule of three can even be applied in very subtle ways, such as three lines, three curves, three sections of the composition, three strong colors, etc. Next time you’re out shooting, think about how you can incorporate the number three into your composition — it might just add that little extra something to make it a keeper.

How else could/do you apply the rule of three to your photography?

Quick Tip: Increase Your Real Estate in Photoshop

The Photoshop interface can get to be quite cluttered with toolbars, histograms, actions, layers, etc. Every one of these things decreases your available viewing area for your photo, making it harder to work with. So when you need more room, press the “TAB” key — it hides the toolbars and give you a nice (nearly) full-screen view of your image. This is effective for things like fitting the image to the screen or working at 100% magnification. The newer versions of Photoshop will temporarily bring back a toolbar when you mouseover the sides of the screen — which will allow you to change tools and such. If this doesn’t work for you, just press the “TAB” key again and your toolbars will reappear. Ta da!

June Roundup

The month of June was an interesting one for me — scattered with traveling and exploring new areas of photography. I’ve also been preparing for some big changes in the month of July, with my new job and a cross-country move. Needless to say, this upcoming month should be a good one, filled with lots of new things to photograph. But this post isn’t about July, it’s about June — so enjoy some of the more interesting posts from the previous month.

And if you’re new to the site within the last month, check out the May Roundup, April Roundup, and March Roundup for more of my favorite articles.

Happy 4th of July everybody! Be safe, don’t drive, eat meat, drink beer, and take some pictures of fireworks!

What Aspect of Photography is Most Important?

There are many aspects of photography that work together to form a good image. If any of these aspects are left out of the picture, you may end up with a sub-optimal photograph. They’re all important, but I’m curious which of those aspects are most important — if you had to pick only one, which would it be? As always, feel free to add answers if they’re not listed here.

What Aspect of Photography is Most Important?

Last week’s poll (What Post-Processing Software Do You Use?) shows that a majority of the Epic Edits readers use some form of Photoshop — 49 of 84 votes, or 58%. This is good news for me, because I won’t feel so bad for speaking Photoshop terminology during my tutorials.

Photoshop Tip: Non-Destructive Burning and Dodging

Burning and dodging are post-processing methods of darkening and lightening parts of a photo for added contrast and tone control. Photo editing software (such as Photoshop) has tools for burning and dodging, but unfortunately they’re destructive modifiers. They’re destructive because they make changes to the actual pixels of the image. Non-destructive techniques are preferred because they give you the ability to “undo” or “refine” them at any point without further alteration of the original pixels.

Burning and/or dodging is something I apply to almost every photo during post-processing, because it allows me to target certain areas of the photo and add that extra “artistic touch”. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how I burn and dodge my photos using a combination of curves adjustment layers and layer masks. The advantage to this method (aside from being non-destructive) is that you have two levels of control with the curves adjustment and layer mask — both of which can be altered at any time during post processing. Let’s get started then (that’s your cue to open Photoshop)…

The Original Photo

I chose this photo because I did a considerable amount of burning — not really any dodging, but the process is the same. Burning darkens, while dodging brightens. I wanted to bring out more contrast in the trumpet and the petals of the flowers by darkening specific sections. As it is now, it’s not bad, but it could be much better. There are hints of contrast in the yellow flower that are begging to come out and play.

Applying The Adjustment Layer

To start, I added a curves adjustment layer to the entire image — not just a curves adjustment, but an adjustment LAYER. We’re going for non-destructive editing here. As the dialog box shows, I pulled the RGB curve down and to the right. This darkens everything a bit, with more emphasis on the midtones. I usually try to over-darken the image with the curves adjustment so I have more room to play with the mask. The image is going to look a bit funny, but we’ll fix that in the next step. So here’s what we have at this point. Even this adjustment is subtle (and a little difficult to see on a low-res image), but the entire image has been darkened slightly.

Now For The Mask

Your adjustment layer will automatically have a mask — but it’s empty, so it doesn’t do anything. The mask will be the little white rectangle to the right of the adjustment layer icon. Masks are just grayscale images; white lets stuff through, black blocks it out. So you’ll want to fill the mask with pure black (make sure you select it first) in order to block out the adjustment layer (Edit >> Fill… >> [Choose Black in the dropdown]). There now, back to normal.

Now grab your paint brush, set the foreground color to white, background color to black, hardness to zero (or whatever value suits you), mode to normal, opacity to 5% or 10%, fill to 100%, and brush size to suit the photo (I typically work between 20 and 200 pixels depending on what I’m painting). With the mask still selected, start painting over the areas you want to darken or burn. With the opacity as low as it is, you’ll have to go over some spots many times before you get the effect you desire. Keep going until you get the contrast looking good. You can also switch the adjustment layer off and on to see a quick before and after. Here is the resulting image after applying the burn — note that the highlights have been maintained from the original, but the shadows are a bit darker in certain areas.

Now For Round Two

That was a good starting point, but I wanted something a little more out of this photo. So using the image above as my starting point, I applied another curves adjustment layer and mask to bring out additional contrast. The images below represent the same process as above, showing the adjustment curve, the unmasked resulting image, the image mask, and the final output image.

Small Steps, Big Changes

Each step in the process relies on making small changes to give a desired result — using multiple curves adjustments, painting at 5% opacity, and using a mask to target specific areas. This technique gives you targeted tonal control over your image, in addition to the fact that you have two levels of adjustability while preserving the original pixels of the photo. The biggest advantage of this method, though, is that it gives you full artistic control over your photograph — global adjustments work fine in some cases, but targeted adjustment can really make your work stand out.

The method I’ve outlined here isn’t the only way of producing non-destructive dodging or burning, but it’s the method that I’ve grown comfortable with. Try it out on some of your photos and experiment with different curve adjustments, masks, brushes, etc. You may be surprised at the outcome.