Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Photoshop, Lightroom and Post Processing...

There is a lot of talk about images being "Photoshopped" in the community when people view the final post processed images that are posted on my site and others.  When asked if a photo has been "Photoshopped" I will respond with a resounding YES!  Absolutely.  But, this is not for the reasons one might automatically assume.  Those who do not aspire to be professional photographers and just take pictures as a hobby, either with their camera phone, a point and shoot, or whatever their camera of choice is, probably won't have the same level of understanding of this concept as those completely immersed in the process.  Before I decided to take the plunge and learn about being a professional photographer and not just a hobbyist, I too was one of those that turned a cold shoulder toward using Photoshop and other like programs.  I used to take what I considered beautiful pictures with my camera phone and was quite content with that for many, many years.  Like others, I considered myself skilled in capturing the moment, and was content with what I saw on my screen.  Posted the picture to Facebook, got a few dozen likes and I was extremely pleased.  This became my goal, my ambition.  I knew that I always loved taking pictures.  Considered myself quite talented, even though I was only using a camera phone.  It wasn't until I acquired my first Canon that I realized just how much I didn't know about photos, quality of images, light, effects on the images, shadows, and getting the image just how I wanted it to look.  I never really had a reason to put any thought into it until I started submitting my "beautiful" pictures to websites where they sell stock images and vote on the quality of what you are submitting.  All of a sudden I realized that my pictures were far from being beautiful.  I began to get rejections from sites for what I felt were amazing photos.  I soon took to heart what they were telling me about my images... grainy, composition, lighting, etc.  I began to understand that I needed some help to make the images look how they needed to look, but my understanding of how to achieve this was lacking.  Sure, I could watch videos online and I could read articles on the internet, but what helped me was enrolling in some classes in a local college during the evening.  There I began to gain an understanding of the terminology, camera settings, light, composition, camera use, and POST know... "photoshopping."  You see, "photoshopping" isn't used for altering supermodels' imperfections and making them look like unrealistic versions of what everyone wishes they looked like.  Sure, it is used for this, but the everyday photographer isn't using these programs for that purpose.  My preferred program for post processing is Lightroom.  This program  has just the right amount of features to give my images the look that I am aiming to achieve.  I do not use Lightroom to drastically change a person's appearance.  I use it to enhance their natural beauty and shed more light on the person being photographed...literally.  I use it to brighten, sharpen and make the colors around the person brighter and more vivid, which adds a personal touch to the image without making the person in the image look like someone completely different than they are in everyday life. Each person is beautiful in his or her own way, and post processing just allows you to accent the person's best features and let their beauty shine through.

Post processing in landscape images, street scenes and anything that is not related to taking images of people is an entirely different story.  I absolutely believe that the use of Photoshop, Lightroom and other like programs is an amazing tool to express your creativity.  Anyone can take a picture of a sunrise or a sunset, a field of flowers, a waterfall, but use one of the post processing programs and the results can be absolutely stunning.  These programs allow you to put your own artistic spin on an image and leave the viewer in awe.  This is a huge plus and I can say with 100% honesty that each image I take has been retouched in one way or the other with the use of Lightroom.  Some more than others.  Actual photographs of people are touched up just for minor lighting issues mainly and to add that "pop" effect to the subject by adjusting their background.  This in my opinion is an important step in the process to get the customer products that they are happy with.

Below are some before and after images... you be the judge~ In the before and after images you can see that the subject is more brightly lit, cropped in more closely so that his face is more of the focus and not the overall picture.  The image is much better post processed and a better end result.

And this before and after... Again, the lighting of the subject in the image on the right is brighter and more focused on him.

And finally... images where you can let your creativity fly... turning ordinary into extraordinary....  

Sunday, October 25, 2015

New and Improved Website...

Be sure to visit our new and improved website at .  New pricing options are now available, just in time for the holidays!

Friday, October 23, 2015

A few more night shots...

Well, night photos look different from camera to camera, available light, camera settings, and environmental conditions.  Just posting a few pics of some recent night photos that I took for fun, testing out settings on both of the cameras.  By far not the best I have done, but I love the colors and the effects, if nothing else :) I'll post something of substance over the weekend.  In the meantime... here you go~

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Long Exposure Night Photography

Tonight was all about long exposures and night photography.  This is yet another area that I haven't experimented with, and the jury is still out on the results, but it was a fun first attempt at blurring the action  by using long exposures and slow camera speeds.  I spent a lot of time reading different techniques on how to do this, and I opted to go with shutter speed as my priority, with an aperture of F11 and an ISO of 100.  The shutter speed used was anywhere from 5 seconds to 30 seconds... all with varying results, but I am posting some of the more interesting images of the bunch.  They won't win any awards for sure, but I did think that the images were interesting if nothing else.  Not too bad for a first run with it.  Now to find some other locations around town with more vibrant colors of light, more traffic to blur in the images and something a bit more challenging to see what comes of changing the settings and mixing things up a bit.  There are numerous ways to achieve the desired look that I was going for, and I am eager to go in a new direction with things on my next outing.  Until then....

Friday, October 16, 2015

Black and White - The More Forgiving Option~

As I continue on my quest to learn all that I can about taking photographs in different types of lighting, natural and artificial, indoors and outdoors, day and night, I am certain of several things:

1)  No two situations are the same and you have to make adjustments to your settings based on the current situation, whether in the same lighting situation or not.
2)  Shooting sporting events at night under artificial lights is not an ideal situation for less experienced photographers.  Although I am nearly convinced that this isn't ideal for any photographer, but those with a broader knowledge base and very expensive equipment might be able to master it a bit better.
3)  As mentioned in previous posts... photography is a lifelong learning experience.  Each day I will learn something new, and will continue to learn new things, as long as my mind remains open to new ideas, new adventures and new situations.

So, let's go over some of the photos that I took at a local USA Jags football game a few days ago.  Looking through the viewfinder I had a clear, crisp image with people and objects in focus.  Looking at the small screen on the back of the camera confirmed what I saw, and I thought... wow, these photos are going to be great!  Now, let's think about this for a minute....Sure, things look great on a 3.5 inch screen, but in reality when you put them on a 22 inch monitor and dive into your photo editing software it's a whole different ball game.  Things that were crammed into view on that tiny little screen have now become a harsh reality that things just aren't that great.  Actually, not even good.  Grainy, poorly focused, harshly lit pictures are what the reality on the editing screen reveals.  Faces and white objects were too brightly lit.  Adjusting the contrast and clarity did nothing to make me feel better about the images.  Highlights, shadows, exposure... same feelings.  This is where changing the photos to black and white and starting from a new angle on things comes in.  Now, I won't even pretend to think that the black and white images that I posted below are great.  Stating they are good would even be a stretch.  But, when faced with some of the poor lighting situations that can be encountered when shooting in different sources of light, sometimes you choose the lesser of the evils and are content with the better shot.  Black and white photography, in my opinion, is very forgiving and can make a bold statement in your photos, even turning those that are less than great into something you can be happier with.

I will continue my journey, absorbing every bit of information that I can, learning something new each day, learning from my mistakes and working toward being the professional photographer that I aspire to be.  In the meantime, the photos below are posted for supporting evidence that all lights are not created equal, and that black and white photography sometimes can salvage something from images that appeared to be discards.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Visit to Fort Benning

This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Fort Benning in the Columbus, Georgia area with friends and family.  What a fantastic treat that was!  The museum that they have is nothing short of amazing.  So much history, so much dedication and devotion to our great country by soldiers past and present.  So many heroes that died so that all of us could enjoy the freedom that we do today.  If you ever get a chance to visit Fort Benning and the museum I would highly recommend it.  While you are there, take time to reflect as you stroll through the exhibits and be thankful for all that you have and for those who bravely gave their lives so that we could be where we are today in life.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Low Light and Nighttime Outdoor Event Lessons at the Ten Sixty Five Music Festival....

This past weekend was the Ten Sixty Five Festival in Mobile.  This was sort of a last minute music festival put in place to replace Bayfest, a huge music festival that was held in downtown Mobile for the past 20 years.  Bayfest brought a lot of big name music acts to the city; however, attendance and interest began to slip over the years as a lot of the bigger "A" name bands were replaced with lesser known bands and higher ticket prices.  So, after 20 years, a few weeks before Bayfest was set to kick off a 3 day music event, they called it quits and shut down operations.  True to form, the city of Mobile, with the help of local organizations and businesses, came through and offered an alternative.  Last minute cancellation meant a scramble to put together something for the city.  Well, not only did they put together a music festival that was initially only 2 days in length, but they got enough acts in place to make it a three day event, bringing in some big names of their own.  For example... George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelics, Wet Willie, Sublime and for the main headliner.... THREE DAYS GRACE!  Oh, and did I mention that this was a free music festival?  Not only was it free, but it was set up in such a manner that the local Mobile downtown merchants received a boost in revenue because attendees of the event bought their food and drinks from local businesses because there were no vendors at the event.  This was a huge plus for the downtown entertainment and business district.

So, what does this have to do with low lighting?  You see, this would be the first time I had attempted to take photographs of an outdoor event such as this.  There was such a huge mixture of different types of lighting that it nearly through me into a tailspin.  First and foremost, I didn't have my tripod with me, which was poor planning.  Because I was very far away from the stage, I should have had the foresight to realize that a tripod with a zoom lens at night is a must.  Now, considering that there was a huge crowd of people at the Three Days Grace concert, with heavy foot traffic anywhere near the event, shooting with a tripod was not going to be an option for having a chance of getting a halfway decent picture.  Not only did I have the challenges of distance, no tripod and a zoom lens while holding my camera in a crowd, but I had so many different light angles, and many bright and colorful spotlights coming from the stage that I feared it would be impossible to come home with even one decent picture out of the HUNDREDS that I took.  It was a very frustrating experience, but I was determined to continue pushing ahead and trying many different settings until I got it right.  Every time I thought that I had it figured out I was knocked back down to reality.  I tried bumping up the ISO... blurry.  Distorted lights.  Tried changing aperture, camera speed and ISO.  Same thing.  Even tried full automatic to see if the camera was smarter than me... not so much.  Then, I tried the FLASH OFF mode on my Canon.  Tinkered with a few settings and to my surprise, although not perfect, I did manage to get a few decent pictures that I was actually pretty proud of considering the odds stacked against me.  Quite honestly, based on my set of circumstances and the poor conditions I placed myself in, I really didn't expect to get any redeemable photos at the end of the evening.

So, my learning journey continues.  Every day in photography is a learning experience.  Every situation is different, and the same rules that applied to that shoot may not apply to my next outdoors nighttime event because everything will not be the same.  I am an information seeker, and I don't give up until I figure things out.  There are hundreds of thousands of resources, both written and video, available to me, and I make sure I utilize some of them each and every day to help grow into the photographer that I want to become.

Now... to end this posting... I will share the final product and some of my photos from the Three Days Grace concert.  Nowhere near perfection, but considering the circumstances I am pretty darn pleased with how things turned out!  :)