Tag Archives: tips

Fool-Proof Photoshop Airbrushing for Dummies

Guest post by Alexis Bonari… A quick and painless way to “airbrush” a picture in Photoshop. I showed a method for digital airbrushing using Photoshop in a past article, but this method takes a slightly different approach.

[tweetmeme]Hi dummy! So glad you could join us today. Just kidding, just kidding. With the advent of Myspace, then Facebook, and who knows what’s coming next, the whole world has become an endless source of perfect skin and magazine cover worthy supermodels. Now that Photoshop is a verb and household name, you might as well get in the know and make yourself (or your girlfriend/boyfriend) uncommonly perfect.

Here’s what you do.

We’ll be using this image, available through Wikimedia Commons:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bangalore,_India_Model.jpg

Save it to your computer.

1. Open your image in Photoshop. ( FILE -> OPEN )

2. Immediately duplicate your image’s layer. ( LAYER -> DUPLICATE LAYER )

3. Make sure your new layer is selected, and then Surface Blur that layer, so that your image looks like this one. Play with the Radius and Threshold to achieve this effect.

4. Now, create a layer mask with this newly blurred layer, and make it set to HIDE ALL.

5. Select your paintbrush, make it big, and reduce its “hardness” considerably. Then change your brush color to WHITE (#FFFFFF).

What has happened so far? You will notice now that you are back to your original image. What has happened behind the scenes is that that blurred image is still there, only that it is now hidden behind the layer mask. This mask will only show parts of the image that are painted in white. So, your next step is where the fun begins!

6. Making sure that your blurred layer’s Layer Mask is selected, you will now generously paint over the areas you want to “airbrush”. You will notice that as you paint, the blurred image will start appearing. Be cautious to not paint over eyes and lips, as you will want their defined textures. You will also find it useful to change your brush size to accommodate around the eyes and lips or any other nooks and crannies that might need you to get in there. It doesn’t have to look perfect at this point. We’ll fix that in a minute.

7. This is what my layer mask actually looks like.

8. Now, with that all done, we’re going to smooth this out even more. Select your GAUSSIAN BLUR filter and blur stuff even more. I like setting it to about 5.0 pixels for this image.

9. Finally, making sure that your blurred layer is selected, adjust that layers Opacity, to blend the blurred effect with the original. In this case, I settled on 72%

Once your image looks the way you want it to, it is ready for saving or exporting for web, or whatever you would like to do.

Less than 10 easy and quick steps, and you’ll have your images looking like the pros! I knew you could do it. Great job!

Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at onlinedegrees.org, researching areas of online degree programs. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

10 Online Photography Portfolio No-No’s

[tweetmeme]Online portfolios can be an important tool for photographers wanting to share portions of their work with an audience. When done right, they portray your work in a highly professional and concise manner. When done wrong, you just look like a hack. I wrote about this topic some time ago, but I’d like to cover it again.

I should also state right up front that I don’t have a dedicated online photography portfolio in the traditional sense. Perhaps one of these days when I take some decent photos I’ll put one together. But I’ve had to look through many other portfolios and I’ve seen a fair amount in passing.

What I can say from those I’ve seen is that some of the same mistakes and nuisances are common to a good number of them. Now, it’s rare to find a portfolio site that exhibits all 10 offenses listed below, but it’s also rare to find one that exhibits none. (also keep in mind that some of these things are only my personal preferences and opinions)

If you have an online photography portfolio (or, more likely, a collection of portfolios housed under one website), here are a few things worth paying attention to if you want the user experience to be a good one.

Red crown
Creative Commons License photo credit: sunnyUK

1. SPLASH PAGE

Do you really need a whole page dedicated to your name or the word “Enter”? I probably know your name if I’m visiting the home page, and you ought to have your name present somewhere on every other page in your portfolio. Don’t force me to find your frilly little entrance link on the splash page, just get straight to the point.

2. MUSIC

I don’t encounter this one much anymore, but it’s still out there. Seriously people, don’t put music on your photography portfolio. It’s not adding to the mood or ambiance, it’s just annoying. I usually have music going on my computer and nothing pisses me off more than some website with music or audio ads messing with my tunes.

map
Creative Commons License photo credit: robpurdie

3. DIFFICULT TO NAVIGATE

A photography portfolio should be quick and easy for the viewer. Navigation is a key component here — make it as simple as possible for me to see your photos. If I spend too much time digging for the images, I’ll just leave.

4. PHOTO SIZE

Most photographers are pretty good about sizing their photos appropriately, but I do see some extremes from time to time. Images that are too small (< 600px) don't show enough detail to be interesting to the viewer. Images that are too big (> 1200px) won’t fit on some screens and you lose a lot of impact when you have to scroll. I find that somewhere in the neighborhood of 800-900px on the long edge is a good compromise: large enough to be viewed, small enough to load quickly.

too many dices
Creative Commons License photo credit: BovenX

5. PHOTO QUANTITY

A portfolio isn’t a dumping ground for every photo you’ve taken in the last 10 years — it’s supposed to be a small collection of your best work that represents you as a photographer. Each portfolio should contain 10-20 images on a specific topic or subject (maybe 30 or 40 depending on the subject and how they’re presented). Any more and I’m bored. Any less and I’m unimpressed.

6. PHOTO DIVERSITY

While photos in a specific portfolio should be on topic, they should also show differences in subjects, locations, styles, etc. If your portfolio for “fashion photography” has images from only one studio session, it just looks like you have almost zero experience. Show some diversity, and show that you’ve done this more than once.

7. PHOTO ORGANIZATION

How you organize your photos and portfolios is totally up to you — the important thing is that they’re organized. Unless you shoot only one specific subject/topic, you shouldn’t be presenting every photo on your site in the same place. Break it up and make it easier for your viewers to understand what they’re looking at. Even if it’s something as simple as “Landscapes”, “Plants”, “Animals”, “Waterfalls”, “Portraits”, “Weddings”, etc. Portfolios should be topical and concise.

8. ALL FLASH, NO INFO

Flash sites don’t bother me and I’m not going to start a flame war on the subject. But if you use Flash for your entire site, have the decency to also place a title or image number on the same screen as the photo (since most flash sites don’t have a separate url for each image). It’s so frustrating to contact somebody and say “I’m interested in that image of the staircase. If you click on the menu item that says “patterns”, then click on the other menu items that says “3″, then click the right arrow 14 times. That’s the one I want.” It’s a lot easier to grab a url from a non-flash site or just state the title of the image.

cookie cutters
Creative Commons License photo credit: danmachold

9. STANDARD TEMPLATE

This isn’t a huge deal, but it’s something to think about if you have some spare time. For sites that use templates or standard designs, a little customization goes a long way. The cookie-cutter design can sometimes send the message that you’re not serious about your work.

10. NO NAME, NO EMAIL

Similar to #8… if you don’t want people to contact you, then don’t put your name or email on the website. Contact forms are usually fine too, but some people prefer to send an email so they have some record of what they’re inquiring about. This is not a joke, I’ve actually seen portfolios that had no way to contact the photographer.

ANYTHING ELSE?

What other things with online portfolios bother you? What really gets under your skin from a viewer perspective? Any good examples of portfolios done right?

Link Roundup 07-02-2010

Link Roundup 06-27-2010

A Secret Tip to Becoming a Better Photographer

This little tip has nothing to do with your camera or post-processing your images. In fact, it has nothing to do with your images at all. Over the last several years of blogging, I’ve come to realize a very important method for improving your photography skills.

BECOME A PHOTO EDITOR

The type of editor that selects photos for publication. Anybody that has been in such a position knows how difficult it is. They should also know how important it is for indirectly sharpening your own photography skills.

SAY WHAT?

Here’s the thing… when you’re forced to select a few photos from a large possible set and show them off to a public audience, you put your artistic eye to the test. Here’s the other thing… it’s hard as hell to do. You want to be “nice” and select over half of the possible photos to show off? Information overload for your audience. You want to be “stern” and only select the best of the best? You’ll have 3 or 4 photos to show off — who cares? Seriously, putting on the “photo editor” hat is a difficult task, but a very rewarding one.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

Over time, you’ll learn a few things about yourself as a photographer. If you do enough of this stuff, you should start to see that you gravitate toward certain types of photos, styles, and genres. Personally, I’m a fan of film, street, xpro, portrait, and quirky images. I like things that stand out from the norm. The images that you like most ought give you a clue as to which types of photos you should be shooting. You like flowers so much? Go take some flower photos! Curating galleries and publications with other people’s photos will also give you a hint about the quality required for a photo to be “interesting”.

On that note, you’ll also raise your bar for quality control. If you see enough amazing photos, you’ll start to desensitize yourself to the “ho-hum” photos — including your own. This should lead you to improving your quality and trying harder.

One other benefit of being a photo editor is the “feel good” aspect of promoting other artists. It’s always nice to have somebody else recognize your work as a photographer, but it’s just as nice to have other photographers recognize your recognition of them.

HOW TO BECOME A PHOTO EDITOR

This part is easy… online publishing is simple and accessible to just about everyone with an Internet connection.

One method for trying your hand as a photo editor is through Flickr. They have a feature that allows you to curate a gallery of photos from other photographers. Flickr galleries are usually created with a specific topic in mind and you’re limited to 18 selections. This method is great because it’s quick, easy, and very open.

Another method is to publish photos on your blog. Just be aware of copyright infringement and look into the Creative Commons as a way to publish photos.

Once you have a method for publication, just pick a topic or theme and start searching for some photos. See what you come up with, and share it with your audience.

EXAMPLES!

I do the photo editor thing every day, every week, and every month in one place or another — mostly on my blogs.

At the Fine Art Photoblog, we opened things up for guest contributors. I get several new submissions each day and I have to choose whether or not to publish them.

Here on Epic Edits, I’ve been doing the PhotoDump feature for a while. I cut it back to once every other week, but I still have to go through several hundred photos and select about 30 to show off. I also started up the Flickr Challenge thing recently, so that’s a theme based evaluation. And then there are the infrequent posts that exhibit certain types of photos along with some occasional tips (see here, here, here, here, and here).

I do the same type of stuff on Feeling Negative with our Flickr pool photos, and with random theme-based exhibits (see here and here).

NOW YOU GO

Feel free to share some links in the comments below — Flickr galleries, blog posts, and any other publication that you’ve put together as a photo editor.

Link Roundup 06-19-2010

7 Tips for Shooting with Normal Primes

[tweetmeme]Some time ago, I wrote some tips for shooting with extremely wide angle lenses. Then I did it again just recently. So rather than cover the topic for a third time, we’ll talk about a different set of equipment: the normal primes.

Prime lenses are easy to fall in love with, partly because of their simple nature due to the fixed focal length. There are certainly more reasons to love them, but this article is more about how to use them effectively and efficiently. I’m also focusing on the range of “normal” lenses (something in the range of 35-55mm, give or take a few mm) because they’re most widely used and easily purchased.

1. MEMORIZE YOUR FIELD OF VIEW

March 25th 2008 - Everything about this is square
Creative Commons License photo credit: Stephen Poff

If you shoot long enough with a particular lens or focal length, you’ll “just know” where your framing is without looking through the viewfinder. This is a handy skill to acquire for situations when you can’t be constantly looking through the camera. If you memorize your field of view, you’ll be quicker to take the shot and you can plan things out a little better.

2. PLAN YOUR PERSPECTIVES

Over the Can
Creative Commons License photo credit: Brian Auer

Building on point 1, primes don’t allow you to compose your framing with the quick turn of a ring. If you want certain subjects in the image, you’ll have to plan out your distance and angle of attack to get what you want. On the other hand, if you want to bring more attention to a subject and exclude surrounding objects, you’ll need to plan on getting close enough.

3. BE PREPARED TO USE YOUR FEET

The barefoot selfportrait
Creative Commons License photo credit: dhammza

Shooting with a prime isn’t completely restrictive, it just means you’ll have to use your feet to zoom. After using primes for a while, you won’t really notice the “foot zoom” factor. Sometimes using your feet will require you to move or through hazardous locations, so don’t walk around with the camera up to your face because you’ll probably trip, fall, or get hit by a car.

4. WORK WITH WHAT YOU HAVE

I Stand Alone
Creative Commons License photo credit: Brian Auer

Sometimes you just can’t get the shot you want with the lens you have. Maybe you need to be further back than possible, or maybe you just can’t get close enough to frame it right. That’s ok. Worth with what you have and make the best of the situation. Keep your eyes open for other opportunities that surround you.

5. BEWARE OF YOUR SHALLOW DOF

031/365: 60 second walk
Creative Commons License photo credit: dotbenjamin

Now on to a few technical notes… normal primes typically have a very large maximum aperture (f/1.4 and f/1.8 are quite common and inexpensive). It’s great to have f-numbers in this range, but be careful with how you apply them. A shallow DOF can do great things for a photo, but it can also ruin it. It’s easy to get too shallow and blur out some important part of the image (of course, the focus in the image above is quite intentional, but you get the idea). In addition, the viewfinder and your on-camera LCD screen are too small to effectively judge DOF — things look more in-focus than they really are. So if you’re not certain that you want razor thin DOF, maybe stop it down a few notches… I tend to like the look of f/2 or f/2.8 better than f/1.4 anyway.

6. WATCH OUT FOR SUNSHINE

Happy flare friday!
Creative Commons License photo credit: zzaj ♫ {Thomas}

Another note on those large maximum apertures, this time having to do with the limitations of your camera. If you like to shoot wide open at f/1.4 or larger, you probably have to throttle back your obsession in broad daylight. With my digital camera, even at ISO 100, I can’t shoot in harsh sunlight at f/1.4 because my shutter speed maxes out at 1/8000s and the meter tells the camera to go higher than that. Of course, I can take the shot, but it will be overexposed because of the physical limitations. Now, if I knock it down to about f/2, I can take a shot within the range of my usable shutter speeds.

7. PHOTOGRAPH PEOPLE

Pool Girl
Creative Commons License photo credit: Brian Auer

Normal lenses excel when it comes to people shots. Their field of view and perspective matches the human eye more closely than the extreme focal lengths. This makes subjects in the photos appear more natural and realistic. The wider end of normal lenses (30mm) will give a slightly wide angle look, but it’s useful for capturing people in groups or in their surroundings. Get too close, and a full frame headshot might look a bit funny. On the other end (60mm), you might have a hard time getting groups or full body shots unless you’re back a ways, but the close-up portraits will look more natural.

What other tips to you have for shooting with normal primes? And what is your favorite normal prime lens?

Tips & Ideas for Wedding Photography

About The Author: This article has been contributed by Nick Smith from Digital Wedding Secrets. Digital Wedding Secrets is a guide focused on the wedding photography. If you are passionate about wedding photography then Sign Up to its RSS or FREE Digital wedding newsletter to receive more wedding photography tips.

пора к плите и кастрюлям!! 2/2
Creative Commons License photo credit: Pelipe

[tweetmeme]Nobody strives to be boring and mundane, and yet countless weddings and wedding photographs achieve that goal with flying colors. To raise the stakes as a wedding photographer (and therefore your prices and reputation), you need to offer a dual personality as wedding photography — one side that will ensure/guarantee the Bride & Groom that they’ll get all the “standard” (read: blah) photographs for a wedding photo package. And the other side that will enthusiastically suggest box-breaking, creative and imaginative ideas that might raise an eyebrow, but will guarantee a smile and/or a laugh (or a gasp) when you submit your final photos to the Bride & Groom. Dynamic photography is all about finding those definitive moments and framing them with evocative lighting… that’s your mantra; I’ll give it to you for free!

Wedding imagery on a grass roots level is just formalized party photography, so that being said, what makes party photography even remotely interesting to look at? That’s right, the spontaneous, unexpected, intimate and candid photographs that details the B-Story Moments of an event. The sterile portraits that most people expect and therefore get won’t get you rave reviews or make the job compelling for you, so push the envelope.

Planning Makes Perfect

The Shoot in photo parlance is actually a production, and for any production to be successful a plan must made, rehearsed and carried out to perfection (or as near as perfection as possible). This is doubly important with wedding photography, because the “event” isn’t staged, it’s happening live… in real-time. Therefore the preproduction planning stages are crucial. During this stage, scouting the location for lighting issues, potential backgrounds and event staging can be determined and discussed with the Bride & Groom. You can take test photos during the preproduction stage, and determine what additional equipment (like a third camera; a second one is mandatory) you might want to acquire the best images on the day of the Big Event. You can also establish a photo coordinator from someone close to the wedding party to help you corral the various groups during the day of the shoot. Sure you’ll have some authority, but not enough to get all that you need make the most of the day.

During the planning stage, you can make your production checklist, so there’s memory slips on the day of; you’ll have it all mapped out and handled by the night before, so that all you have to do on the day of the Wedding is get up, get dressed and drive to the venue.

Here’s another free mantra for you; If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.

Inspired Images: The Photo Essay

A photo-journalistic style is top among the techniques and tricks that can enhance any wedding photo package, but in reality you want to create a photo essay of the wedding, not just document what happened with a journalist’s flair and/or a creative eye. A photo essay has a more impressionistic slant to it; the images need to feel as poetic as possible. This will enable you to take chances with lighting, composition and subject matter that stretches the limits of photo journalism.

Remember, the photo-essayist looks to find singular lyrical moments and combine those moments such that they deliver more emotional impact than typical compelling photo journalistic/reportage imagery. Of course this technique/skill requires a most creative eye, and the ability to find the moments that might not be the center of the “action” but are more poignant and potent for the final outcome.

Build Rapport

Successful photographers build a rapport with their subjects prior to doing any meaningful shooting, just ask any National Geographic photographer how they get those stand-out images. So you need to follow that lead when it comes to Wedding Photography and establish a rapport with the Bride & Groom. The ideal time for this is during the walk-thru when the full wedding party is all there, and any pre-wedding day photographs (like engagement photography session) that the Bride & Groom want (suggest this if they haven’t thought of it). Be sure to be as engaging as possible; cracking jokes might be a bit much, but be as jovial and open as possible. All these people need to trust you in intimate moments, when most of them are probably going to be a little drunk (or maybe a lot drunk) and be emotional in rare ways. You have to be an insider, not an interloper.

Brutal Editorial Review

While it’s most important to shoot (perhaps too) many photographs, the purpose of this is to have the broadest possible selection possible to present to the Bride & Groom; not to mention that memory storage cards is notorious cheap these days, so bring enough cards and fill them up. And when doing this presentation, make sure that you are showing the absolute best “selects” of the 100s, if not 1000s, of photos that you took. Only your best work needs to be seen by the Bride & Groom. If you don’t have a great editorial eye, then find someone who does and whose opinion you trust. This most critical to having a happy Bride & Groom, because when they return from their honeymoon and want to see the photos they need to re-create the emotional highs of the wedding day. Even if the Bride & Groom aren’t expects at examining photos (and who expects them to be?), they will instinctively know when a photo is good or if a photo is great.

Takes these tips for what they’re worth, maybe you already do all these things. So this is just confirmation that you’re on the right track. Remember, you are a professional, and there is a specific pattern of behavior that is required of a professional; keep that in mind at all times and you’ll be successful. Professionals are prepared, open-minded and have boundless energy for the current project when it’s “go time.”

About The Author: This article has been contributed by Nick Smith from Digital Wedding Secrets. Digital Wedding Secrets is a guide focused on the wedding photography. If you are passionate about wedding photography then Sign Up to its RSS or FREE Digital wedding newsletter to receive more wedding photography tips.

Link Roundup 06-14-2010

I just realized that it’s been a few weeks since I posted some links! So here are a few that I have in my list… I’ve got more, but I don’t like posting more than 10-15 links at a time.

Must-Bring Cameras for Wedding Photography

[tweetmeme]Guest post from Nick Smith, author of Digital Wedding Secrets – a guide solely focused on the wedding photography and its business. If wedding photography is your passion too then Sign Up to its RSS or the FREE Digital wedding newsletter to receive wedding photography tips in your email.

For many, Wedding Photography is the “pays the bills” aspect of photography, and therefore it might get short shrift on the respect meter because of the seemingly lack of “excitement”, but as my friend in the movie business says, “if you take the job, you do the job” and that means no griping. And honestly, there is a compelling aspect to wedding photography, let’s take a look, shall we?

The truly interesting thing about Wedding Photography is that it has an editorial aspect to it as well as a photo-journalistic aspect to it (or at least you should position yourself as a photographer who offers a blend of both). This dual nature enables you to provide a premium product… with a premium price.

While it goes without saying bringing two cameras to a wedding is the minimum ideal way to go. However, the true question is what two cameras to bring? I’m going to suggest a dSLR and a Rangefinder.

dSLR

A wedding
Creative Commons License photo credit: yaili

Canon and Nikon make some extraordinary dSLRs and the higher end Prosumer models can easily handle nearly every situation conceivable for wedding photography. Obviously Pentax and Olympus make quality product, too, but Canon and Nikon are the two heavy weights. dSLRs provide you with so much versatility in lens choice and other accessories. But there are few specifications that you might want to consider (either when renting a second or third camera, or buying a second camera, and possibly trading in one of the cameras that you do have) to ensure that you don’t miss a shot. The camera’s recycle time and burst fps are important factors to weigh, as well as what type of flash units the camera can accommodate (i.e., a High Sync Flash unit). It’s important to use a full-frame dSLR, this is pure an aesthetic bias on my part, but you want to be able to use as many lenses as are available in your camera manufacturer of choice’s line. Sure you could miss out of the fully computer-controlled lenses, but you might have a favorite lens that was for a film camera.

Most people will do well with two dSLRs, one fitted with a wide angle zoom (perhaps a 17mm-35mm), and the other with a telephoto zoom (probably a 85mm-200mm). This combination will enable you to quickly jump back-n-forth for group shots and tighter more intimate shots… without having to swap lenses, and perhaps miss a crucial shot.

A Rangefinder

Leica addict
Creative Commons License photo credit: c-reel.com

Why a rangefinder?, you ask. Simple, these most innocuous of cameras allow you to get extraordinarily candid and intimate shots that you might not otherwise be able to get with a dSLR. The level of intrusion that an dSLR causes can ruin the spontaneity of precious moments; not to mention that some people act a fool when they see a camera in active position.

Now I wouldn’t say that these cameras really fallen out of favor, more like they have become the ultimate niche photographic item. And the granddaddy of them is the Leica M7 or its digital cousin the M9 (Leica’s newest, most state-of-the-art digital camera). The unparalleled image quality that these cameras provide are worth taking the time to learn the unorthodox focusing method.

Leica’s new M9 is an AWESOME digital camera with a full-frame (24mm x 36mm) image sensor and captures images in a high-density RAW format. And because of the full-frame image sensor,you can effectively use any of the Leica lenses from the past 30 years… and those are perhaps the lenses on the planet. Known for their sharpness, incredibly speed, and lack of chromatic aberration, you’ll be awe-struck at the quality of the photos.

Bride
Creative Commons License photo credit: zamario

I had mentioned earlier the photo-journalistic aspect of Wedding Photography, well with a Leica (or any rangefinder for that matter) you can take on the role of photo-essayist. Rangefinders, and the Leica in particular, have supremely quiet shutter releases, so hardly anyone will know that you’ve actually taken the photo. Plus you can focus and fire from the hip so easily that you’ll have an unprecedented ability to grab photos with practically no one noticing. This gives you a lot of creative power as a photography, because you can concentrate on getting the Wedding Party and the guests to behave as naturally as possible.

You might think the Leica is overkill (due to its price), but the images will be well-worth it (and if you rent it, the actual expense is minimal).

So the camera configuration of two dSLRs and a rangefinder can yield you a wider variety of more compelling photographs with different feelings and emotions captured. That’s what the clients ultimately want, images that define the moment, that will spark memories in the future and will stand-out from the standard wedding photography fare (not that you won’t offer those as well, but it’s always about offering more than the standard these days).

About The Author: Nick Smith is author of Digital Wedding Secrets – a guide solely focused on the wedding photography and its business. If wedding photography is your passion too then Sign Up to its RSS or the FREE Digital wedding newsletter to receive wedding photography tips in your email.