Monthly Archives: May 2010

PhotoDump 05-31-2010

More great stuff from the Epic Edits Flickr Pool! This selection of photos is from those entered in the pool between 05/11/2010 and 05/31/2010.

And don’t forget — We’re doing themes/challenges and the current one is “analog”. I know we have a ton of film shots in the pool, so be sure to tag your new and existing photos in the group with “EE-ANALOG” if they were taken on film. I’ll be picking out some favorites in just a few days.

Steampunk Kandy by spudcheyneEverything you need by Roaming Vegashide and what ? by Marcin KrukDay 287 - Better Run by __multifacetedIMG_0015 by jrodgersartPasos cansados de caminar by portafolio fotográfico - William LópezLayne | Virginia Baby Photography by lifeography®Ivy by jk+tooFerris by Chris NixonOff to the Ball by jrodgersart5 by londonist227/365 - the girl with the leather bracelet by joshfassbind.comOne light beautydish portrait of artist by Stefan TellKassidy by Jonathan EnnsOne Song by EphemeralCaptureHorses, my love! by W A R P D R I V ESundial by ? th1rt3en ?The Frantic @ JBTV by Tasha {Redwall Photo :: Music}Nude latina_4992 bw by Silver ImageFear and Loathing on the People Mover by Cherie S.Precious Little Moments by Lomo-CamThe Bicycle by this is ronaldoHangin' at the Mall by shandopicsDay 164 - Good Luck, Chucks by somedesignerguyJacqueline by Conny LundgrenArancina by Merdichesky219/365 - rain drop melody by joshfassbind.comSimplicity by Håkan Dahlströmscale by photonicmnemonicHAPPY @ 80 by robinn.Half Dome in a Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park by chuqui365.130 by i_shoot_minoltaCouch In Tree by ahmer_inam

Link Roundup 05-28-2010

eBook Review: The Magic of Black & White, Part Two – Craft

[tweetmeme]I recently reviewed The Magic of Black & White, Part One – Vision and now we have part two – craft. A clever set of titles if you ask me… mainly because the books are published by Craft & Vision.

I gave high marks to the first book, and this one is right up there too. Author and photographer Andrew Gibson continues his discussion of black and white photography by covering some of the technical aspects and how they relate to the inspirational side of things.

Like the first book, the text is concise and the images are both useful and beautiful. All together, it’s an easy read that also contains good reference material.

“The Magic of Black & White, Part Two – Craft” can be purchased through Craft & Vision for only $5. The links in this post are affiliate links.

ABOUT THE BOOK

The Magic of Black & White, Part Two – Craft is a 51 page downloadable PDF eBook. The book is a single page landscape format (to make it easier to view for the folks with iPads and such). Throughout the book, you’re presented with a mix of philosophical and technical advice along with sample photos from Andrew’s fine collection of work. This book uses software tools found in Photoshop CS3 (or newer) and Photoshop Elements 6 (or newer).

The book starts off a little slow in that it doesn’t jump right into the technical stuff. Andrew lays out some groundwork by explaining his experience and philosophy. After a few pages of this, he jumps into the main course with technical stuff from the digital darkroom.

Here, Andrew goes through techniques for black & white conversion and toning. Three example studies bring us to the conclusion of the book, and they contain other useful editing tips such as masking, burning, the addition of texture, and more.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Gibson is a writer and photographer based in the south of England. He works for one of the UK’s leading photography magazines and also freelances. He loves to travel and one region he’s been drawn back to time and time again is South America, in particular Argentina and the Andean regions of Bolivia and Peru. He works in a ‘fine art documentary’ style and presents most of his work in black and white.

You can find Andrew’s work at his main website or at his blog. He’s also a regular contributor at Phototuts+, Smashing Magazine, and the Fine Art Photoblog. On top of all that, he’s an employee of EOS Magazine.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

Definitely a book worth reading for the beginner/intermediate black and white enthusiasts, especially for the low price of $5. The technical skills presented are not terribly difficult to learn, and Andrew presents them in a way that’s easy to digest. Even the more advanced photographers might pick up a thing or two since some of the techniques presented were developed by Andrew himself.

Part two (craft) is a great follow-up to part one (vision), and I would certainly suggest getting this one if you liked the first. And if you didn’t get the first book, you might consider getting both because (in Andrew’s words) “craft without vision is just an exercise in pushing buttons”.

“The Magic of Black & White, Part Two – Craft” can be purchased through Craft & Vision for only $5.

LIMITED TIME OFFER: Use the promotional code MAGIC4 at checkout to get the book for $4 or use the code MAGIC20 to get 20% off when you buy 5 or more books from the Craft & Vision collection. These codes expire at 11:59pm PST June 1, 2010.

Why is Street Photography Dominated by Black and White?

When I think about street photography, I see black and white. Perhaps I’ve been conditioned to think this way, or maybe there’s some other driving force here. Regardless, I hadn’t really thought about it or questioned it until Rachel Fus struck up a conversation on Twitter (@fusphoto) about the recent street photography post:

fusphoto: 15 photos from @EpicEdits’ Flickr Challenge http://tinyurl.com/2afs7uc Y r only 3 of these color? #photo

epicedits: @fusphoto Most are b/w because most of the submissions were b/w. Not surprising given the topic.

fusphoto: @epicedits street photography? how so?

epicedits: @fusphoto You don’t think street photography is typically dominated by b/w? Less so w/digital, but I still see more b/w street pics.

fusphoto: @epicedits this is true but y? the “streets” are infused with color yet people don’t use it. the merry-go-round for instance. WTF?

epicedits: @fusphoto Never really thought about the why of it… I have my ideas, but maybe I’ll post a blog discussion this week to hear from others.

[tweetmeme]And so here we are. Rachel brings up a good point and it really got me thinking. The streets are full of color, yet most street photos are either captured or published in black and white. WTF indeed!

Now, nobody’s saying that street photos can’t be in color, or even that the best ones are only in black and white. There are tons of examples out there that break the “rules” in this arena. But I have two thoughts on why street photography is closely coupled with black and white images.

1. THE MASTERS HAVE BRAINWASHED US

brainwash NOW!
Creative Commons License photo credit: ranjit

Elliott Erwitt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bruce Gilden, Robert Frank, and countless others have taught us that street photography is black and white. William Eggleston would be a strong exception to the rule, but a lot of the “old masters” shot in black and white. Why? Probably out of convenience more than anything, though I’m sure a few of them have always loved the black and white end of things.

At any rate, a lot of the recognizable masterpieces in street photography are black and white images. If you see enough of that, your brain starts to make the connection… street photography = black and white. So I’m going to argue that we’ve been brainwashed by the masters.

2. COLOR IS A DISTRACTION

For my second reason why street photography works better in black and white, I’m going to get all “deep” and stuff.

what you are worrying about right now is a distraction from what's really important in your life
Creative Commons License photo credit: Torley

Color is an element of every photo. Just like framing, composition, subject matter, lighting, exposure, etc. But color is one of those elements that can essentially be turned off. Street scenes can be very busy with lots of distracting elements as is, and color will often add a level of complexity that leads to sensory overload in an image. Background elements can be a major distraction: the bright green car, the guy in the red shirt, the neon sign, and so on. My thought is that if the color isn’t adding something important to the image, it doesn’t need to be there (and it might even hurt having it there).

I’m not going to get much “deeper” than that… you get the point. But don’t be too quick to attack — these are just my own opinions and observations on the matter.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

Do you agree that street photography is dominated by black and white? Why or why not? Is this changing as we go further into the digital age of photography? I’d love to hear some thoughts on the topic.

15 Street Photos From Our Readers

[tweetmeme]Last week I announced that we would be running a new feature here on the blog: The Epic Edits Flickr Challenge. For the first topic, I chose “street photography” and asked you to submit your best photos to the Flickr pool. In a week, we had over 70 entries and I narrowed my selections down to 15.

It was tough choosing a favorite, but I ended up going with the image below from Victor Bezrukov. So now he gets to choose the topic for challenge #2.

happy runner
happy runner by Victor Bezrukov

Victor has chosen the topic of “analog photography” — basically anything shot on film. Any format, any type of camera, etc.

CHALLENGE #2: “ANALOG PHOTOGRAPHY”

FLICKR TAG: “EE-ANALOG”

And don’t forget that your photos must also be in the Epic Edits Flickr Pool. Winner of the next round picks the next topic. I’ll post my selections in about a week.

Here are the remaining selections from Challenge #1:


Untitled by versusnyc82

Fear and Loathing on the People Mover
Fear and Loathing on the People Mover by Cherie S.

staten island ferry
staten island ferry by versusnyc82

Rainy Day
Rainy Day by chris honiball

Vidas Paralelas
Vidas Paralelas by portafolio fotográfico – William López

Untitled #31
Untitled #31 by Peepin Pixel Piker Pepper

Sunny Days
Sunny Days by Bryan Davidson

Just Passing Through.
Just Passing Through. by demosthien

Merry-Go-Round
Merry-Go-Round by Bryan Davidson

Street Scenes - The Apprentice
Street Scenes – The Apprentice by KBTimages.co.uk(uk_photo_art)

late for a date
late for a date by KBTimages.co.uk(uk_photo_art)

geese
geese by rince_77

Faith
Faith by ✪ th1rt3en ✪

Sundial
Sundial by ✪ th1rt3en ✪

Link Roundup 05-23-2010

Bring the Bicycle Portraits Project to Life


Bicycle Portraits from Bicycle Portraits on Vimeo.

[tweetmeme]This is great on so many levels. Stan Engelbrecht and Nic Grobler recently started a project investigating South African bicycle culture and the lack of cyclist commuters out there on our roads. They want to raise the funds to turn this project into a self-published full-color hard-cover photographic book, and I’m hoping that we can help them out.

These two guys are seeking to raise $15,000 for traveling, shooting, writing and preparing all the collected content. At the end of all this, the goal is to publish a book of their work. They’re set up at Kickstarter.com to accept donation pledges, and you can see their progress in reaching their goal.

Pledges can be as little as $1, but a $50 pledge will double as a pre-order for the book. Higher amounts will get you things like signed prints and special signed editions of the book. The donations will only go through if the goal is reached by June 17, so you won’t be donating to a lost cause.

If you’re into good photo books and you want to help out some fellow photographers with their project, see the links below.

BICYCLE PORTRAITS PROJECT DONATION PAGE
BICYCLE PORTRAITS ON VIMEO
BICYCLE PORTRAITS IMAGES

Photoshop Technique: Digital Airbrush

[tweetmeme]Airbrushing is (or was) a process typically used to remove minor imperfections in portrait, model, and fashion photography (among other uses in photography). I’ll be presenting a digital airbrush technique in Photoshop intended to slightly smooth out skin textures in close up portraits. Sharp lenses and good lighting can produce very detailed captures, including all the small wrinkles and pores. Sometimes you just want to smooth out all those little things.

I’ve also created a Photoshop action to speed up the process described below. All you have to do is open up the original image and run it. The action stops at the filter dialogs and allows you to adjust them before proceeding. At the end of the action, you’re all set up and ready to start airbrushing.

DOWNLOAD THE DIGITAL AIRBRUSH PHOTOSHOP ACTION

I should also mention that I learned this technique from at least one or two other sites out there (can’t find the source for the life of me right now). I’m definitely not the originator — I’m just passing along my own interpretation of the process.

So here’s the image I’ll be working with… a very close-up and well-lit portrait. What you see immediately below is the final image after applying this airbrush technique. I’d show you the before image, but you wouldn’t be able to see much of a difference at this size.

Amazing Portrait of Merunisha Peel

A couple of things to remember before I get into it: don’t go overboard with the processing, experiment with the numbers to suit your image, and what I’m showing here is not the only way to do it. So let’s get started.

1. ORIGINAL IMAGE

This is a crop of the original image after being processed in ACR for exposure, contrast, white balance, etc. The crop is a 50% zoom so we can see more of the image while retaining some of the important details. Take note of the small skin wrinkles and pores — these are the things we’re going to smooth out a bit.

2. DUPLICATE BACKGROUND

When you open it up into Photoshop, duplicate the background layer. We need to do this because we’re going to apply some destructive modifications to the top layer, and we’ll be applying a layer mask later on. Essentially, we’re going to make a “new skin” that can be airbrushed over the existing image.

3. SMOOTH IT OUT

Now it’s time to make that skin into plastic. Apply the “Dust & Scratches” filter (Filter >> Noise >> Dust & Scratches…). Start with a 5px radius and adjust until you get something almost cartoon-looking. You want to get rid of the small details while maintaining the bigger details.

4. ADD BLUR

After smoothing out the little things, we want to add some blur to soften up the bigger things. Apply a “Gaussian Blur” filter (Filter >> Blur >> Gaussian Blur…). Again, start with a 5px radius and adjust until you lose that cartoon look. You want to soften the hard edges while maintaining some amount of contrast in the larger details.

5. ADD NOISE

This one is nearly impossible to see even at a 50% zoom — it’s very subtle. Apply a small amount of the “Noise” filter (Filter >> Noise >> Add Noise…). Start around 0.7px with a uniform monochromatic noise and adjust until you can barely see it at 100% zoom. You want to break up the plastic look just a tiny bit with some texture.

6. MASK IT

Now that you’ve completely destroyed the working layer, mask it all out. Add a layer mask and fill it in black (Layer >> Layer Mask >> Hide All). Now your image should look like the original because we’ve masked out the modified layer.

7. AIRBRUSH TIME!

Grab your brush tool, soften up the edges, set the color to white, put the opacity to around 10 or 20%, and select the layer mask we just created. Adjust your brush size to suit your needs and start painting in some of the fake skin. The key here is to do a little bit at a time while varying your brush size and edge hardness. Paint over the areas where you want to remove small details. You want to brush in a little more fake skin than you need — we’ll fix it in just a second.

The image above shows the mask applied to the image. You can see that we’ve removed most of the skin texture while keeping the details in the eye.

The image above shows the mask for the entire image. You can see that I focused mostly on the areas… in focus. I also made it a point to avoid the eyes, mouth, and hair. We don’t want to soften up these areas.

8. BACK TO REALITY

At this point, you probably have something slightly resembling a plastic doll. No biggie — we can fix it. Simply adjust the opacity of the modified layer until you bring back some of the original skin texture. I ended up with an opacity of 70%, but you’ll need to judge and adjust your own image based on how heavy you modified the skin during the airbrushing.

9. BEFORE & AFTER

As you can see from this split image, the final adjustment is not very harsh. The intent was to smooth out the very small wrinkles and skin pores visible in on the face.

And for those of you viewing this on the site, you can mouse over the image below to see an after and before effect. RSS and email readers will need to visit the site to see it (there’s a JavaScript mouseover making it all happen).

I don’t use this technique very often, but it’s a good one to know. Useful for close up portraits, but that’s about it. And don’t abuse it — soft and subtle is the key here. A bit of skin texture is actually a good thing!

What Type of Photography Books Do You Prefer?

I love photography books, and I’ve noticed that most of them fit into one of two groups: educational and inspirational. Educational books being the technical manuals, how-to’s, and general tips and techniques. Inspirational books tend to be more of a “coffee table book” with lots of photos and maybe some supplemental text.

I typically lean toward the inspirational books, but I realize that educational books certainly have their place. Most of the book reviews I do here on the blog also fall into the “inspirational” category. But maybe I’m a minority and you guys are bored to death of the coffee table books — let’s see some votes!

[tweetmeme]

Do you have any favorite books from either category? And have you ever seen a photography book that is truly both educational and inspirational?

Link Roundup 05-17-2010