Tag Archives: tips

Link Roundup 05-23-2010

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!

Link Roundup 05-17-2010

Link Roundup 05-15-2010

7 More Tips for Extremely Wide Angles

[tweetmeme]Just under one year ago, I wrote an article titled “8 Tips for Shooting Extremely Wide Angles“. I wanted to follow up with some additional tips on the subject… and of course, more great photos for your viewing pleasure.

So here are 7 more tips for shooting with extremely wide angle lenses. Some are brand new, and some are an expansion from the previous post. Either way, enjoy!

1. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR FRAMING

20
Creative Commons License photo credit: Maurizio Polese

Extremely wide angle lenses make everything look smaller. This poses a problem when looking through the viewfinder because objects inside the frame can be hard to notice. Chances are, you’ll be paying attention to the overall image and the composition, but these minor details (especially around the edges of the frame) can slip by. What you end up with is a good shot ruined by some small thing down in the corner of the frame. Sure, you can crop it or clone it out, but it’s better to pay attention when you press the shutter.

2. SHOOT A CUSHION SPACE

adelaide slipstream
Creative Commons License photo credit: mugley

Because of distortion, wide angle shots are difficult to get straight. You typically don’t have a perfectly straight line to set your tilt, so you might end up with a slightly crooked shot. This happens more often with this type of lens, so leave a small amount of space around the edge if you’re unsure of your leveling abilities. Even if you shoot straight, you might want to crop down the outer edges just a bit. Distortion increases toward the corners and it can really stretch things out.

3. GET CLOSER

Pout
Creative Commons License photo credit: orangeacid

When shooting extremely wide, you’ll need to get extremely close to your subjects if you want them to be more than a minor detail in the photo. These lenses can usually focus fairly close, so you can get within several feet and focus with no problem. Just be careful that you don’t get too close — appearances in the viewfinder can be deceiving, and you might bump your lens into your subject.

4. STEP BACK

Point The Way
Creative Commons License photo credit: kwerfeldein

Contrary to the last tip, you might want to step back from your subject. This is more well-suited for the landscape photos. Sometimes you have large foreground elements that you want to include in your composition. Just step back a few paces and the whole perspective changes — things up close get significantly smaller, while things way out there don’t change much.

5. ENSURE STRAIGHT LINES

Salton Sea Sunset
Creative Commons License photo credit: Brian Auer

Some wide angle lenses are better than others when it comes to distortion (you can tell by the price tag). But all wide angle lenses share the characteristic of having minimal distortion at the center of the lens. This also works for the horizontal and vertical center-lines of the lens. If you place a horizon at the top or bottom of the frame, it will probably be distorted. But place the horizon at the center of the frame and it should be almost straight. This also works for vertical lines in things like architecture.

6. DISTORT REALITY

184/365 - enjoy coca-cola
Creative Commons License photo credit: B Rosen

Sometimes you want to be a deviant and break “the rules”, right? All you have to do is ignore the last tip. Shoot straight lines near the edge of the frame and you have a whole new reality. You can also get really close to small stuff and shoot against a distant background of big stuff. Or perhaps you could take some portraits at a minimum focus distance and go for the big-nose look.

7. GET CREATIVE AND HAVE FUN

When bovines attack :-)
Creative Commons License photo credit: tricky ™

Super-wide angle lenses are fun to shoot with, but they require a bit of creative thought sometimes. Try out different combinations of subject distance, frame location, perspective, and secondary subjects. You might be surprised at the results every once in a while.

How about some other examples of extremely wide angle photography — drop a photo in the comments below, and leave a tip or two!

Link Roundup 04-21-2010

115+ Wedding Photography Tips


Creative Commons License photo credit: X.u.k.i

[tweetmeme]After reviewing David Ziser’s wedding photography book, Captured by the Light, I decided to dig into my collection of bookmarked articles in search of even more wedding tips. I came up with quite a few, and supplemented the list with a quick search around the web.

I’m sure this isn’t a comprehensive list of all wedding photography tips out there, but it’s not a bad start. In these 13 articles, there are over 115 tips covering many aspects of wedding photography from lighting to composition to planning to the business end, and many more. So if you’re getting into wedding photography, check out these resources and take some notes!

(21 TIPS) FOR AMATEUR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS

(11 TIPS) BUILDING YOUR WEDDING BUSINESS

(2 TIPS) ESSENTIAL LIGHTING TIPS FOR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY

(10 TIPS) PHOTOGRAPHING YOUR BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING

(32+ TIPS?) CHRISTOPHER MAXWELL: WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

(1 VIDEO) HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH A BRIDE

(8 TIPS) WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY SURVIVAL TIPS: THE PREPARATION

(A BUNCH OF TIPS) WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY – LESSONS LEARNED

(6 TIPS) WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY 101

(5 TIPS) WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY COMPOSITION

(9 TIPS) WEDDING PHOTO TIPS FOR AMATEURS

(10 TIPS) PHOTOGRAPHING MY FIRST WEDDING

(HUMOR) HOW WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS ARE LIKE GANG MEMBERS

YOUR TURN

If you know of any other good wedding photography tips, tutorials, and/or resources, feel free to leave the links in the comments below. And if you have any good wedding shots of your own, show them off!

Link Roundup 04-15-2010

Link Roundup 04-12-2010

Learn Your Camera With the Flip of a Dial

Get off the Green Box (aka AUTO): These are where you should be.
Creative Commons License photo credit: MoHotta18

This quick little tip is aimed mostly at the dSLR users out there who are still learning the ropes. I know how easy it can be to leave the camera in an “auto mode” so you don’t have to worry about all that technical crap. But the non-auto stuff really isn’t that bad, and it opens up a world of possibilities for you.

[tweetmeme]So this little exercise might be somewhat disappointing on your first go, but it should get you rolling in the right direction. You can do this in a single outing or split it up over multiple days — whatever works for you. And if you don’t feel enlightened after your first try, do it again. Alright, here’s the technique:

  1. SHOOT IN AUTO MODE
    If this is what you’re used to doing, just go ahead and get warmed up. Don’t think about that comfort zone you’re about to step out of, just shoot some photos.
  2. SWITCH TO APERTURE PRIORITY
    When you move to aperture priority mode, you control the f-number and everything else is automated. So now you need to start thinking about depth of field. Look for photo opportunities where you might want to blur the background or have everything in focus. Lower f-numbers equate to lower depth of field and higher f-numbers equate to greater depth of field. Pay attention to your foreground and background subjects, and experiment with different f-numbers on the same shot to see the results. You’ll also need to pay attention to your auto shutter speed chosen by the camera — low f-numbers on a sunny day might max out your shutter speed, and high f-numbers on a cloudy day might result in long exposures.
  3. SWITCH TO SHUTTER PRIORITY
    When you move to shutter priority mode, you control the shutter speed and everything else is automated. Now you need to think about motion blur. Look for opportunities where you might want to blur a fast moving object or freeze everything in the frame. Lower shutter speeds equate to more motion blur and higher shutter speeds equate to freezing action. Pay attention to moving objects, and experiment with panning your camera as you take a shot. You’ll also need to pay attention to your auto aperture chosen by the camera — slow shutter speeds on a sunny day might max out your aperture, while fast shutter speeds on a cloudy day might pin your aperture wide open.
  4. SWITCH TO MANUAL
    If you have a handle on the aperture and shutter priority modes, try switching over to full manual controls. The only difference is that you determine both aperture and shutter speed at the same time (and it’s not as hard as it first seems). Modern dSLR cameras have built-in light meters that tell you if your exposure is correct when shooting manual. That little scale in the viewfinder… that’s your light meter. Move the shutter speed and f-number around and you should see an indicator move across that scale at some point. If your exposure is correct, you should be somewhere around the center of that scale. As you experiment with the manual controls, you’ll probably notice that you prefer to leave the aperture or shutter in a steady place while modifying the other. This will tell you which priority mode you lean toward.
  5. Again, if you’ve never shot the priority modes or the manual mode before, this might be brutal on the first round. You’ll mess up a bunch of shots, you’ll miss shots entirely, and you’ll probably be pissed off. Stick with it though!

    The best way to learn the semi-manual and fully-manual controls is via practice. You can read about this stuff all day long, but that will only take you so far. So get out there and learn your camera!

    Any of you experienced folks have tips for those experimenting with the mode dial? Things to watch out for? Things to try?