OK, so maybe I’m the stranger. It’s been a while since I’ve flexed my photography muscles, let alone posted anything on here! Actually, it’s not for lack of picture-taking. I’ve done tons of macro work this spring- but my editing time has been virtually non- existent until recently. Summer break means only one thing… time to get to work! I need to reformat my hard drive, implement a systematic backup storage system, edit millions of photos and delete zillions more! This summer, my goal is digital file management- doesn’t that sound like fun? Not.
I finally got the chance to change out my macro lens and knock the portraiture rust off with the following senior session. In doing so, I think I’ve finally found my niche, at least as far as portraiture is concerned. While model work is my absolute favorite, and maternity is a dream, I also really enjoy seniors. In short, it is so much fun posing and photographing someone who actually WANTS their picture taken (no offense, Dads… and moms with small children) I love families, and totally value the family portrait. But I absolutely adore the modeling aspect of senior portraiture. It makes photography fun!
With this session, my goal was to shoot and edit light, to produce something soft, but model-esque, without the dark edginess of couture. Though I still have a few more to edit, I’m pleased with the results. Among the biggest editing challenge, was trying to create color in a world where everything, absolutely everything, is saturated in summer green. The grass. The trees. The bushes, the wood on the dock… even the water seemed to positively vibrate GREEN, so I desperately wanted to inject some different hues, color the shadows, etc. In this case, I relied heavily on my favorite MCP action, Jenna’s Sweet Shop. Though I used it at a very low opacity, it provided just the right color punch to neutralize the green sumer glow.
And I’ll leave my readers with one little piece of advice- never, I repeat, NEVER lie down in the grass in the woods, no matter how beautiful the shot. You just might find yourself lying in a nest of ticks! And those buggers are FAST! No photo is worth all the creepy crawlies- you just might end up with your pants around your ankles, mid- session, picking dozens of ticks off your waistline and thighs. It’s not worth it… just trust me!!!
I’ve been working on my laptop a lot more lately since Photoshop doesn’t crash on here. The iMac is full to the brim of photos and other files and reeeeeeally needs a good house cleaning, but I’ve managed to avoid that backup headache by using the backup computer instead! Haha. Photoshop runs like a champ on here, save for the eyedropper tool color selection ring (CSR) which, apparently requires me to update the perfectly good video card (not gonna happen) Thus I learn to work without my favorite tool. Sigh. Grumble number two- have you ever done extensive editing on a laptop mouse? Trust me, it’s NOT fun. I actually have a cramp in my pinky finger! Ah the things we must suffer for our art…Which leads me to complaint number three- all the photos on my desktop are the ones I want to edit. But Photoshop keeps crashing my desktop. The photos on this computer are nothing but untouched beach pics from last summer, so I’m editing some old stuff. And it feels strangely out of season to be editing beach pics when it’s winter outside (it actually snowed a few flurries here last night!)
I can officially NOT take credit for this post as it was ALL my husband’s idea. He’s the brains behind this operation. I’m just the camera He wanted a shot of himself stripping his flight gear off and running for the ocean. It’s really a self portrait… sort of. OK, technically he didn’t trigger the shutter, but if I’m his not-so-better half, that counts as a self portrait, right?Anyhoo, it truly captures that liberating feeling of leaving his work behind, especially since squadron life was officially OVER… at least for a season! This shot actually took several attempts, and I will eventually post more from this sequence. But as you probably know by now, I am ADD and tire easily of editing similar photos. So the next time you see this image (or a version of it) it will likely be completely different.
This was edited with a mishmosh of actions and textures. First I ran Petite Treat by Oh So Posh at 60%. Then Oasis of the Sea, from the same set at 20%, masking it off the foreground because it acts rather like a haze. Then I layered Depression Glass, a texture by Jessica Drossin. I actually added this texture twice in Soft Light blend mode, although the second time it was very low opacity. Of course I masked it off his flight gear- there’s something very unprofessional about purple-tinted military gear! Haha. Last, I used Magic Markers by MCP to pop the colors a bit. I wanted to deepen the green in the water and the purple edges of the sand. You know me- it’s not a complete image until it has purple somewhere!
So anyways, here’s my summer in the midst of winter. I call this one Freedom!
I had so much fun on this little project I just have to share!
Every now and again when I just get the photo bug, but have no time to do any serious shooting, I grab my camera and head into the yard… LOOKING for photo opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise notice. These are times when my macro lens is my best friend. And I just know my neighbors must think I’m crazy as I lie there, nose to the driveway, photographing textures, or shooting the hood of my car (which makes for great texture overlays, by the way). Sometimes we have butterflies, sometimes there’s an interesting moss growing… in this instance, some rather scraggly looking rose bushes made for a challenging subject.
I’m not sure why I even kept this image as long as I have. I like the brightness and contrast and the composition. But it doesn’t exactly take your breath away, if you know what I mean. Yet this image has been sitting on my drive for moths now, taunting me. Almost haunting me. It just needed to become something…
So tonight I started playing. And playing. The more I tried to bring out the beauty of the flowers, the more it resisted. So scraped the pretty edits and I began a messy collage… exploring all the different blending modes with each added layer. In case you didn’t know, you can drag your Photoshop layers around, rearranging their order. Whenever you move a layer, it will affect your image. So play with layers and see if you end up with a unique combination you hadn’t originally intended.
This collage is a blend of different textures from French Kiss. These are fabulous texture bundles, although I can’t remember which collection I used. They may have even been freebies from their facebook page! I love free textures… especially since I am such a texture junkie!
Tonight I discovered my love of the blending modes Difference and Exclusion. Of course, you can’t edit a family portrait session with these modes, but they do make for terrific digital art!
The fun is in watching the colors morph and blend as you add layers. I couldn’t begin to explain the steps it took to create this image. Just like working with paints, it was ” a little of this, a little of that” and voila. These little roses suddenly felt complete. I made two versions, one warm and one cool, and just cant decide which one I like best. What do you think?
Can you believe I have no words for you today? Ha! I’m sure they will come. I’ve never been short on words. I wanted to post more images of the family shoot I did last week. This session was split into two parts. Part one was in the master bedroom, as you’ve already seen in the Family Feet post. Part two was in the baby nursery (immediately following the Family Feet session!), where we were able to really have some fun and get some creative shots! This was the first time I was glad I overpacked my camera bag for the shoot. I brought my 50mm, which was my primary lens as it opens to 1.4. I brought my 60 mm macro in case of baby toes and fingers (which we did not have time for) I threw in my wide angle (gasp!) because I wanted to get some shots through the crib. As you will see, the wide angle (16-35mm) worked perfectly!!! You just have to be careful not to place your subject close to the edges when using a wide angle or they will be distorted. But it IS possible to find a balance for portraiture if you take the time to carefully compose. In this case, I had ample time to get the right shots as baby was snug in her own bed with Mom and Dad hovering like guardian angels. The nursery music was playing, the lights were down low and Baby couldn’t have felt more comforted or secure. It made for one dreamy baby shoot!
As for editing, it’s only been a week or so, but I can barely remember the steps I used to edit these! I know I used Touch of Light and Touch of Dark- a freebie by MCP that is my absolute favorite! It saves so much time making all those small light adjustments by hand! If you don’t have this action, check out MCP and see if it’s still available. And it’s FREE!
So I lightened in places that needed a touch, and darkened where necessary. For example, Mom has such gorgeous dark hair, when I lightened the image it looked dull and lifeless. I needed to retouch her hair (darken it) to bring it back to life. Other image lightening effects includes Quick Flash and Frosting, two wonderful, basic actions in MCP’s Fusion set, to add light and haze. Adding haze is a great filler for those stubborn shadowy spots in your otherwise light and airy image. You can mask it off the places where it interferes with image clarity. The Frosting action by MCP is a nice, clean haze, without any major color tint, although it does add warmth.
Normally I don’t edit light, so this was a stretch for me! My goal is to be able to edit in a bunch of different styles, so this was great practice! Especially as we were shooting indoors in fairly low light. I learned from my last shoot that babies move fast, so do NOT sacrifice shutter speed in favor of low ISO. This time I cranked my ISO to 1000, opened my aperture wide and let that shutter fly…FAST! And it paid off You can always smooth out a little grain in your image, but you can’t fix blur!!!
By the time the shoot was over, baby had been nursed, rocked and put into her bed., with the camera happily snapping away in the background. It couldn’t have been more perfect! Sweet dreams, little angel!
I know it’s a tad early to post Valentines messages, but I’m thinking of my friends in Japan who have already celebrated this day of love. Truly, I’ve never given much thought to Valentine’s Day ever since the last goody-bag I brought home from the card exchange in elementary school. Now that I have school aged children of my own, Valentine’s has returned with a vengeance, as I find myself staying up until midnight stuffing last-minute miniature envelopes!
Since we’ve been in card-making mode, I thought I’d try my hand at a digital version. It’s much more fun than cutting paper hearts…
In making this image, I was looking for an inspirational quote that would specifically speak to all the military wives, like myself, who struggle day by day, often questioning our love and devotion to a man who is never home. A husband who is never here for our needs, and when he is home, somehow it’s all about HIM. Our needs are always secondary. ALWAYS. And the worst part is, we know that’s just the way it has to be. It will never change. We are his help meet, his cheerleader, his support and his strength. We are not allowed to be weak. And it feels totally and utterly unfair! But I’ve learned (the hard way) how comparing notes can be so humbling…to me! After all, in the face of F18s flying, bombs exploding and surrounding gunfire, my exasperation with poopy diapers and fussy children does seems rather trivial! Nobody’s life is at stake if we don’t stop that chocolate-covered hand from smearing on the wall. Nobody loses a limb if we take five minutes locked in the bathroom just to get some “mommy time”…or at least we hope not!
But seriously, WHY do we do it? HOW do we do it?
First, we know Love is a CHOICE, not a FEELING. We do this because we are called to do it. We sacrifice because it’s the least we can do to honor their sacrifice. We love because it’s what we have to give, so we give it freely. And we know we will be rewarded, though our reward will not be in this lifetime.
How do we do it? It’s simple. WE love because HE first loved US.
Let me begin by saying I am so excited to actually have some spare time for this woefully neglected blog!!! I know you’ve missed me terribly. Haha! Perhaps I should begin with my usual litany of complaints, namely that I never have time for photography any more (insert whine here.) And I MISS it! I know the saying, if you WANT something bad enough, you’ll MAKE time for it. Which clearly means my priorities must be God, kids, homeschool, sleep, family, puppy, housecleaning, grocery shopping, school planning, laundry, kids activities… whether I like it or not, and not necessarily in that order!!! Truth be told, I would probably put sleep at the top of the list. (Sorry, God, I’m working on that.)
I even bought a reeeeally big purse so I can always take my reeeeally big camera along, discreetly hidden, of course And I did, for a while. And here’s what I’ve discovered. Feel free to call me out on this, but it’s reeeeally hard to pull the good camera out for point and shoot moments. You know the ones-birthday parties, playgrounds, school events… yes we all have our mommy cameras. And I LOVE being part of these fleeting childhood memories. But as an artist these moments are utterly uninspiring. I use my iPhone more and more to document moments, and my camera I use for art. And THERE is where I run into my time shortage. ART takes time. ART DEMANDS TIME. Time to be lost in the moment, seeing critically, walking thoughtfully, waiting patiently, discovering carefully. Art is born of time, and that is what I miss.
That being said- I will be attending a birthday party tomorrow with my BIG CAMERA, more determined than ever to find an inspirational shot!!! So stay tuned! Haha
OK enough lamenting. On with the exciting stuff. If you remember that beautiful baby from my last blog post (yes, that last time I took my camera out) Well her sweet momma has seen my unedited photos (horror of horror) and she has graciously asked me to shoot some MORE picture of her new addition! This time I was more equipped for the task. Namely, the SUN was gloriously shining which gave me plenty of light to work with.
They wanted indoor family photos, both in the bedroom and nursery. True lifestyle photography. And let me confess, this was SO FUN!!! Unless a client is bent on being stressed out (and you know they’re out there) it is really hard to have a stressful shoot in your own home. The baby is comfortable in the environment, as are the parents. They have access to everything you might need- for example, I forgot my hair tie. No problem- I was sporting a ponytail ten seconds later! Moms are free to nurse, change diapers, change clothes. And get this- even DADS are relaxed! Did I finally get your attention? Even Dad is not grumpy at the idea of lounging in his own bed for a photo shoot. It was awesome!
My goal was to shoot LIGHT and airy. And edit even lighter. I wanted an artsy touch that looked processed, but not overcooked. I did a few black and white, which is really not my style, and I learned a LOT. It was fun!
So here we go!
When I arrived, baby was fed and ready to pose- so we started with the hard shots first. Tummy time away from Mom and Dad. As the shoot sent longer, she naturally got tired of posing but it is easy to get shots of Mom and Dad snuggling, comforting, cooing to their little ones. And you know how I LOVE fussy baby pictures. I promise I got a great one I’ll share later!
These were all edited with Florabella Classic Color, from the Classic Workflow collection. My biggest challenge in editing is CONSISTENCY. I was intentionally trying to produce the same effect for the entire series of shots. In my typical ADD style, I usually tire of one editing style after three photos and do something completely different. But in order to eliminate the Schizzo-Photographer effect, I devoted myself to ONE style and stuck with it. It wasn’t easy. I’ve had these Florabella actions for a while now and never use them, simply because I have so many other actions I love.
This action has a deep, very dark contrast when you initially run it. It’s seriously dramatic- which I love, but it was overcooked. So I spent a good deal of time learning which elements to tweak, and to what degree. I had to invert the mask for the contrast, and do some mask work on several different layers to find a balance. In the end, it is pretty rich, deep and warm. And I wish I knew how to batch edit, because I had to do the same tweaking on each layer on every photo.
Next, we brought Dad down to the end of the bed to throw focus on him. Little known secret- get the Dad shots early, too, because they wear out even quicker than the kiddos. Haha!
Lessons learned from this shot- If you’ve followed my work, you know I shoot angles…a LOT. But there is a time and a place for angles. This was not one of them. I wish I has taken the extra second to check my frame because I would have noticed the headboard was slightly crooked. Nit-picky, I know. But for the sake of self-critique, I have to mention it. I was using my 50 mm prime, and was hanging off a treadmill to get this shot, so I had zero room to move back. Thus, I couldn’t crop and rotate the image without losing some of those precious baby toes. And now that I mention this next one, you won’t be able to stop staring. And you will ask yourself, “how could she possibly MISS that?!” Do you see the rubber bad on Dad’s arm? I never even caught that detail. I was too focused on, well… focusing! Haha. Mom acted fast to remove the unsightly blemish (hence the ponytail holder I mentioned earlier!) yet here it is, permanently memorialized in cyberspace. Of course, if I’d moved two inches to the left, this would be perfect! But I’m not much for impaling myself on treadmills, so Mom’s leg is a tad far from Dad’s shoulder. Pick, pick, Pick.
This was edited with Florabella Classic Black and White. This is a BEAUTIFUL action! Of course you must spend time finding the right filter balance. And the contrast is extreme, and requires some adjustment. But I was very pleased with this action, it’s organization and capabilities. It may even make me work in Black and White more!
Next we brought up Mom to join in the fun. Don’t you just LOVE how baby is studying Dad’s face! So precious!!!
Another edit with Florabella Classic Color. You can see why I chose to use a color-enhancing action- just look at that amazing blue headboard!!!! Isn’t it gorgeous? I must give a shout out to Mom here because that headboard is entirely hand made. Outstanding.
Did I say I tried to stick with the same editing style for the entire session? OK. I lied. I HAD to try something different, just for this shot. It is so clean and soft and white… I originally started with Florabella Classic Black & White, but here’s yet another reason to LOVE Florabella. Embedded in this action is a B&W layer. You simply move the opacity slider and voila, you can add some tint to your grayscale. I LOVE IT. I also added a vintage tone to warm it up a bit. I just adore how that little pink flower is the only “bold” color.
Here’s where I put in a photographer’s plug for changing your vantage point. Although Mom and Dad were kind enough to furnish me with a ladder, I was able to beg, plead and cajole their friendly canine into letting me use his doggy-step stool because it’s alot easier to move around than a ladder! The stool only elevated me about a foot, but you can see how the shot really fills the frame, especially because I was using a a prime lens. Scooting back further was simply not an option, and this perspective totally changes the intimacy and color mood of the image. As much as I ADORE the blue headboard, I wish I had gotten some more pristine shots like this one. It’s just so… CLASSIC!!!
But the wee little one needed a wee break from posing, as we will see in the next shot- a last minute attempt at the super cute Family-Feet shot. Little one was not particularly thrilled at moving from cosy cuddle time with mom to stinky feet time at the end of the bed. I can’t imagine why! Haha. As I’ve said before (and will continue to say) I LOVE fussy baby shots!!! I don’t know why. Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but the truth is, fussy photos are fun because that’s reality! We always want perfect portraits, but now that my own kids have grown so much, the real emotions captured on film are my favorite. Especially when it’s one of those lovely dramatic moment babies have made into an art.
So without further ado, the fussy family feet portrait! (Drumroll, please…)
How GREAT is this? Mom is trying not to laugh, Dad is being… well, let’s be honest… he’s doing what newborn Dad’s do best- namely, sleeping through the crying! Haha. I LOVE IT!!! Needless to say, we didn’t get the coveted feet portrait. Maybe we should have done this shot first- it would certainly be a good icebreaker! But this shot truly captures a moment and it fills my heart with joy. This is family at it’s finest. It may not make the Living Room wall, but it will be a best- loved page in the family photo album for years to come!
Life is about learning, right? But before we go any further, I’d like to differentiate between learning and education. Education is book knowledge. Learning comes from experience, and the understanding which comes (often) from making mistakes. And mastery of any subject is a long, LONG road of learning, especially for those of us who are more impulsive than methodical! And, as you have probably discovered, photography is an art which requires a stable balance between emotion AND method, a lifelong pursuit, to be sure!
So why the lexical lesson? Because I’ve noticed each blog post seems to be more of a confession than an affirmation of my stunning photographic skills. My writing veers more towards the lessons-learned approach rather than the “look-what-I-did-and worship-me” attitude adopted by most photographers today. Maybe it’s partly confidence, maybe it’s personality. But the way I see it, if I’m going to learn from my mistakes, why should I be the only one to benefit? Why not let others learn from my mistakes, too.
That being said, let’s move forward with the understanding that I do NOT photograph babies. I have nothing against babies. In fact, I love babies- I had two of my own! Babies are wonderful, delightful blessings which bring life, love and most of all, a sweeping heart change to each proud parent who’s life ambition quickly swings from blind self-servitude to compassionate servanthood. I love the joy of motherhood, the glow of proud mommies, the expression of pure delight as an infant looks into her mother’s smiling face. And then, moved by the moment, I pull out my camera… and it all falls apart. Oh, the mom and babe continue in their blissful infatuation, but you would never know it from the pictures I get! I try and try, but at the end of the day, I am better at capturing the essence of a rusty guard rail than the euphoria of mother and child. Sigh.
A few days ago, I had the privilege of shooting the most adorable, sweet natured and beautiful baby one could ever hope to meet! She was smiley, quiet, and altogether a joy to be around. If only all babies were this easy!!! My goal was to try that bokeh background you see all over Pinterest. There’s nothing like Christmas for beautiful bokeh. It’s everywhere and I can’t get enough!
So I draped a cream bedspread over my backdrop stand and lavished it with with christmas lights. Then we placed the subject about seven feet in front of the backdrop, shot at a low aperture setting and fired away. As I do not have studio lights, I was hoping for some good natural light, and it turned out to be one of the darkest, dreary days on record. So I busted out the flash.
Lesson # 1. WHEN IN DOUBT, ADD LIGHT. Those of you who know me know I have a deep-seated, irrational fear of using my flash. Perhaps I have been traumatized by too many horrid flash-in-the-face nighttime bar scenes posted on Facebook. You know the ones, the bleached out faces, the red eyes, and the completely black background. When I think flash, that’s what I picture, and it’s NOT pretty! So my beautiful, amazing SB900 sits in its case most of the year. In fact, I’ve been known to go to GREAT LENGTHS to avoid using a flash, and I’ve mastered the art of making available objects into tripods. Fences, trash cans, cherry trees- you name it. But this shoot needed LIGHT, not slow shutter speeds. So I found a flash setting that seemed adequate in camera… that is, until I looked at everything in Photoshop. Here’s the original. I really don’t want to show you. But in all humbleness:
LESSON # 2 SLOW DOWN. We made a last minute addition of the lights in the foreground, but I failed to readjust my settings I had already painstakingly worked out BEFORE the new lights were added. Here’s where the emotion/ impulse part of me overpowers the method. She just looked so darn CUTE sitting on a cloud of fluff, surrounded by lights, I started shooting right away!!! But this set up was much trickier than it looks. The background bokeh is lovely, but the lights in her hand (close to me) are completely blown out. And of course the white balance is slightly too warm. It would have taken me a few minutes to try different exposures, but instead I got ahead of myself and fired away.
LESSON #3 SHOOT FAST! Like I said, I can hand hold slow shutter speeds like a champ. Countless are the number of nightscapes I’ve shot with near perfection with no tripod. But I failed to consider one vital thing- BABIES MOVE… ALOT. And their facial expressions change in an instant. In this setting, we moved to a natural light window, but like i said it was very dark and gray outside. Nevertheless, I decided to ditch my flash and “go natural.” With my ISO already cranked to 800, I didn’t want to sacrifice image quality by adding too much flash or too much grain. So I attempted to do the impossible, especially when it comes to children… I tried to shoot slower. In this frame she was giving a little kick, and because I was shooting so slow, I missed the shot! I threw away literally hundreds of blurry shots, many in which she was smiling delightfully, all because I tried to push the limits…
LESSON #4 PLAN AHEAD. With Babies, you truly never know how long they will last, when they will sleep, when they will cry, so each “pose” or studio set up needs to be situated well in advance. KNOW what you are going to do, have it ready, and know your light set up. Then you can move baby from one scene to the next fairly seamlessly. If you spend too much time stuffing baskets or rearranging scenery, you may have lost the moment. This sweet little thing had cooed and smiled for two hours while I fiddled with props and camera settings and set off flashes in her face. She was a CHAMP! Besides it was dinner time and we were ALL feeling tired and hungry! I know moms don’t always appreciate fussy- face photos, but they are actually my favorite! I love the wrinkled brow, the toothless mouth and the expression of pure fatigue. I love when babies cry because, while their angst is so earnest, their life is so tender, so sweet. Snuggled up to mama, rocked and kissed and soothed into a deep, satisfying slumber. It really doesn’t get any better than this!!!
So, here’s one edit I’ve managed to squeak out. I really wanted that light, airy, angelic effect. So I lightened the image considerably, lightened the shadows, decreased the saturation and cooled the tones. Of course, I applied a lavender haze because you know how I love purple
OK, one more just to satisfy your curiosity. I DID manage to get a sharp image, even at 40fps (I know, I know!) Isn’t she the cutest thing? She was this alert, awake and smiling for the entire session!