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Archive for March, 2010

TRA’s Dirty Pictures: A Review

March 31st, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

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One of my favorite Photoshop add-ons is Dirty Pictures from Totally Rad Actions.   I am a big fan of adding textures and overlays to my images- some are obvious, others are subtle (the average viewer would not know that there was a texture/overlay involved) and add a three dimensional feeling to a pop of color to the images.  Dirty Pictures comes with 21 custom textures, but it isn’t the textures themselves that make this one of my favorite Photoshop filters.  Frankly, it is the interface which is brilliant (and you can add your own textures to the interface, so if you are like me and you already have favorite textures that you have shot or purchased, no worries- you can add them in).

In the past, if in the course of editing you decided that your image might benefit from a texture, then you used to have to open the texture, copy it to the image, reposition it, select the layer blending mode and opacity, create a layer mask and then edit the texture to taste.  Really, the only bit that I found tedious was actually CHOOSING the texture.  I have shot a lot of textures, and I usually know which textures I will want on which images.  However, there was no easy interface to test different textures out on the image before committing to the best texture.  If you did it wrong, you would have to delete the layer and go find another texture in your personal library, repeating the above process.
Enter Dirty Pictures.  Now, if you want to add a texture to an image the interface is much easier.  Simply open Dirty Pictures (Filter>Totally Rad- Dirty Pictures).  A screen will pop up asking you to choose your texture.  This is nothing new, although you can now scroll through your photographs visually right in Photoshop through Dirty Pictures.  Where Dirty Pictures really shines, though, is in the texture selection.  Dirty Pictures will take your image (the one you have open in Photoshop), create a thumbnail of that image, and add EACH TEXTURE in your Dirty Pictures library to that thumbnail in order to give you a basic preview of what your image might look like with the texture applied.  Then, once you have selected the texture that you want, it automatically applies the texture according to the presets that you have for that particular texture.  For example, there are some textures that work best when blended in multiply mode.  Dirty Pictures saves your preferences for each texture and will automatically apply the blending mode and opacity that you like best for that texture.

Here is a screen shot of the slick interface:

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And here are a few images with those textures applied:

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Post by Maine Wedding Photographer Michelle Turner.

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Michelle Turner & ShootStyle workshop in Ogunquit ME

March 28th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Mingle

The Shoot Style crew held a posing workshop headed by Michelle Turner today in Ogunquit Maine. Much fun was had, the photographers are downloading and processing now. Can’t wait to share the images!

Until then, here are a few of the ‘behind the scenes’ images to whet your appetites.

Thanks all!!

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Stay tuned!!

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Shoes Shoes Shoes!!!

March 24th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

ShoeBlog003

Every season I believe I am going to stumble upon the best pair of shoes for shooting weddings.

Able to cushion my feet for up to 10+ hours of: shooting, crouching, running, squatting, jumping, climbing, you name it.

As well as, dare I ask, I want them to look cute!

And every season I seem to stamp a big FAIL onto my sore tootsies (and

back).

I’ve tried the Dansko route, which I know many many praise. I used the Dansko clogs for one season. Unfortunately, they caused my feet to go numb, as well as make the fashion diva that dwells inside puke a bit.

(okay okay, the colorful mary janes I will admit are cute. I’m just a bit shy what with the whole toes going numb situation)

I’ve tried cheap yet super cute flats from Old Navy. Stick a gel insert in there and I almost found a great solution that made the frugalista in me jump for joy.

Alas, the quality of the shoes tends towards creating blisters and other such aching nonsense. So while a great solution while shooting engagement sessions, portraits and shorter weddings; for the long haul = not so great.

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Every year this question seems to pop up on some forum or other. So I decided to send the question out into the intrawebs and see what suggestions others had.

[Warning: this post will lean more towards the female side. However, fells, feel free to chime in under the comment section]

Michelle Carpenter of Main Event Weddings says she swears by her MBT’s. I will admit they do have a very funktastic vibe to them, and she says since starting to wear them, she’s lost 10 pounds!!

Fashion friendly shooting shoes + weight loss = heck yea!!

Kristin Cioffi of Picture Everything has only lovely things to say about her Merrells They are quite well known to be a fabulous shoe, especially for the outdoorsy flavored humans. And tho I saw a couple of styles wink at me, most just won’t cut it when it comes to the cute factor I’m trying to find.

I’ve heard others talk of the Cole Haan with Nike technology, Mootsie Tootsies, and Rockport.

Checking the current collection of Cole Haan Air, I can see why many would sway that way. They are quite stylish, and if the comfort factor is in effect, seems like a great choice for many.

However, while I am a big fan of heels, and have in fact shot successfully in them, there will be times when that sort of shoe just won’t cute it (like racing backwards across a lawn right after the couple walks happily wed down the aisle).

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So I again pose the question: have you found the perfect shoe? Who are they buy? What do they look like? Share a link, share your story.

And tell me, why can’t I shoot barefoot??

Stacey D

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Predictable Color

March 17th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

00-predictcolorhead

We spend hours bent over our computers crafting the perfect image before sending it off to a lab or album company, only to see it butchered in the final print. So, how do your get your prints to exactly match what you see on your screen?

You can’t.

All right, that would be a really short article. So, lets talk about getting color that is pretty darn close from screen to print to album.

Why is this so hard anyway? That can be a complicated question to answer. In part, because when you look at a photographic or inkjet print or press printed album you are seeing the effect of light reflecting off of colored dyes or ink sitting on paper. When you look at an LCD monitor, the light you see is being transmitted directly through red, green, and blue filters. To make matters worse, every monitor and printer is capable of displaying a different range of colors. The hardware, software and workflow used to describe colors and get them to display and print as accurately as possible is called color management.

The subject of color management is so complex, you could write a book about it. In fact, a number of people have. One book I recommend is Color Management for Photographers by Andrew Rodney. His Web site is also very useful for learning about color management. Since resources like these can teach you almost everything you need to know about color management, I’m going to try to simplify the process and cover only the 5 most essential steps to getting your monitor to match your prints.

Step 1: Get a Good Monitor

Not all displays are created equal. At the time I wrote this, one could buy

  • a 22″ EIZO ColorEdge display for around $4,400
  • a 24″ NEC Multisync Monitor for about $1,150
  • a 24″ Apple Display for around $900
  • a 24″ Acer Display for about $330.

All of these monitors are LCD panels and they are nearly the same size, so why the enormous price disparity? A couple of important reasons are that the more expensive monitors can display larger range of colors (gamut) and they are more uniform in how they render color across the screen.

I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but your monitor–yes, the one that came bundled with the computer at Costco–probably stinks for judging color. If you didn’t spend $500 or more on your monitor, you could probably do a LOT better.

Look at reviews and get recommendations from other photographers when buying your monitor. Your display is the window that you are going to be judging all of your work on, so it makes sense to get the best one that you can afford. Right now, NEC’s SpectraViewII monitors are getting high marks from photographers. They have a wide gamut and come with hardware and software that does an excellent job of calibrating and profiling the monitor.

What if you work off a laptop? Bad news! Laptop screens are generally designed to be lightweight and low power rather than to have accurate color. The good news is that it is usually easy to attach a more accurate (and larger) monitor to your laptop. I know, I know, you got the laptop so that you could do your color correcting on the couch. OK, you can still follow all of the steps below and work off your laptop screen. The accuracy of your color may suffer somewhat, but will be better than before.

Step 2: Use a Hardware Based Calibrating and Profiling Tool

Keep that checkbook out. Now that you’ve got a decent monitor, you need to make sure it is outputting the most accurate color that it’s capable of. In the old-timey days of digital (like 2005), a lab would send you a print and tell you to adjust your monitor to match it. If that happens to you now, run, don’t walk, to another lab.

You may also have a software-only calibration tool like Apple’s Display Calibrator Assistant or Adobe Gamma. These programs walk you through calibrating your monitor by eye. Unfortunately they aren’t sufficient for your needs as a professional photographer. Please, don’t go there.

The only accurate way calibrate a monitor is by using a hardware based calibration tool. This is basically a little puck that you put on your monitor while you run the software it came with. The calibration software will walk you through two basic tasks:

Calibrating – here you tweak your monitor’s brightness, contrast, and perhaps even red, green, and blue channels to bring the display as close as possible to a state of showing perfect color.

The software will probably ask you what to use for a gamma value. I recommend using 2.2 as your gamma.

It will also ask you what to use for your monitor’s white-point or color temperature. Here you can use either 6500K or “Native”, which is the displays native white-point.

Finally, and pretty importantly, you need to set a luminance value for the calibration. Luminance is a value of how bright the monitor is. I recommend a setting of somewhere between 90 and 120 cd/m2. That will make your monitor look very dim until your eyes get used to it. But if you remember that we are trying to get your monitor to emulate a piece of paper, you can understand why it needs to be that dim. Straight from the factory many monitors have a luminance of 200 cd/m2 or more. If you adjust your images on a monitor with that kind of brightness, you’ll probably see that they seem too dark when you get them printed.

Some displays, notably Apple’s, don’t really give you much ability to change anything except the brightness. That’s OK, as you’ll be profiling the display in the next step.

Profiling – now that your monitor is calibrated as closely as possible to showing perfect color, we want to know how far off from true color it is. During the profiling step of the process, the calibration software will display a series of solid colors underneath the puck that is attached to the monitor. The puck precisely measures the colors displayed on the monitor and notes how far off each color is from what the true color should be. The software then creates a ‘monitor profile‘, which is a file that describes how the monitor deviates from true colors. The software asks you to name the profile and automatically saves it in the correct place on your computer.

Software that is color management aware, such as Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, automatically uses this monitor profile to compensate for that monitor’s differences when it displays an image on screen.

Some good monitor calibration devices are the i1 Display 2 and mirthfully named ColorMunki from X-Rite and the Spyder3 from DataColor

Step 3: Set Your Working Space

Now that the monitor is set up and profiled, the next step is to adjust your Color Settings in the software you use. Here we will briefly discuss Color Settings for Photoshop, but the same general principles will apply in any professional photo editing software.

01-calibrate-colorsetting

The Working Space is the default color space that Photoshop will use when you are editing images with it. It also is the default color space that will be used if you create a new image. There is a different color space setting for RGB, CMYK, Grayscale, and Spot color images. For images that you send to a lab, or even many press printers, you should be primarily concerned with the RGB working space. The two most popular RGB color spaces for photographers to work in are sRGB (often labeled sRGB IEC 61966-2.1) or Adobe RGB (often referred to as Adobe 1998).

Which working space should you use? It’s up to you, but in general, Adobe RGB will give you a larger color gamut which is great, especially if you have a high end inkjet printer in your studio. Just remember that your lab or press book provider won’t be able to print all those colors. And if you put a photo on the web, you’ll need to convert it to sRGB first, or it will look odd in most web browsers.

If you’re new to color management and you typically get prints at a lab rather than printing in-house and want the most consistency in the photos that you print, give to clients, and post on the web, you might want to use sRGB.

It is important to note that you should NOT set your RGB working space to be the same as the monitor profile you created in the last step, or the same as your printer profile. Doing this will severely limit the number of gamut colors that appear in your images.

Step 4: Embed your Color Profile Into Your Images

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It is also critical that the files you send out for printing have a valid ICC profile embedded. Without an embedded profile, the recipient of the file won’t know which color space your files were created in, and will not be able to accurately print them. When you save a file from within Photoshop, you will see the checkbox for Embed Color Profile. Always leave it checked.

At this point, having followed the preceding four steps, your monitor will show a pretty good match to the output that you get from your lab. Send out a few test prints and instruct your lab not to adjust them in any way. You’ll probably be very pleased at how closely they match your monitor when you get them back.

There is one last step you can take though to get from being ‘in the ballpark’ to really, really close, and that is…

Step 5: Soft Proof Your Images

Photoshop has the ability to simulate what an image will look like when printed on various output devices. In order to use this feature, you need Photoshop version 7 or higher, a high quality profile for your display (like you created in Step 2) and a high quality profile for the printer (and paper) you’ll be printing on. Many labs and press printers can provide you with a profile for their printer and paper combination. If you are printing in-house, your printer manufacturer or paper manufacturer should be able to provide you with a printing profile for your specific printer/paper combination.

Once you have obtained a profile for the printer you are using, you can install it on a Windows PC by right clicking on the file and selecting “Install Profile” from the menu that pop’s up:

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You can also install the profile on the PC by moving them into the C:\WINNT [OR WINDOWS]\system32\spool\drivers\color directory.

On the Mac, you can install the profile by moving it into into /Library/ColorSync/Profiles folder.

Open an image in Photoshop and in the View menu, select Proof Setup->Custom.

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This will open the Customize Proof Condition, or “soft proofing” dialog as shown below. Initially, configure the soft proofing settings as follows:

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Device to Simulate: Choose the name of the color profile you just installed.

Rendering Intent: Relative Colormetric

Black Point Compensation: Checked.

With these settings, Photoshop will attempt to emulate what your image’s colors will look like when it is  printed. If you click the Preview checkbox on and off, you can quickly toggle between the image and the soft proof.

To get an even better idea of what the image will look like when printed, you might want to take into account the brightness and tint of the paper that the photograph will be printed on. Photoshop lets you to simulate this by clicking on the Simulate Paper Color checkbox.

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When you do this, your image will appear to get dim and its color may look drab. This effect is so pronounced that many Photoshop experts actually recommend that you look away while clicking the Simulate Paper Color button. After a few minutes, you eyes will adjust to the new brightness level.

Click OK to dismiss the soft proof dialog. You can still toggle proofing on and off by selecting Proof Colors from the View menu, or using the keyboard shortcut [Command/Control]+Y.

I like bright, saturated colors in my images, but I know that they won’t always make it to print. The image below gives a flavor of the differences you might see between your original on-screen image, and a soft proof simulation.

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See how the red in truck and the blue in the sky lose a lot of their vibrance? These colors just can’t be reproduced on photographic paper. Other colors like the hand and the jacket are less affected because they fall within the printer’s color gamut. Even though the more vibrant colors won’t match what I see on the monitor, they will still probably look good in prints because our brains adjust to whatever medium we are looking at.

Bear in mind that soft proofing does not alter the original image at all, nor does it change the image’s profile. It just simulates the final output onscreen. You can use this simulated state to make changes to the color, brightness or contrast of the image before sending it off to be printed.

Hopefully, after following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to feeling in control of your color. Still, like I said up front, there are a lot of variables to color management, and I’ve only touched on some of the basics here. If you have more questions on this topic, please feel free to ask them in the comments.

~Earl

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Cute little psychedelic teddys

March 13th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Play

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Cycles

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Lifestyle Portrait Sessions

March 10th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

When I get asked to photograph a portrait, the client usually asks for a posed photo of their family on the dunes in front of the lighthouse. That’s all great and dandy, for tradition’s sake, but what they love and order prints of are the lifestyle images. Those images that show their kids’ personalities, that show them interacting with each other, that catch a natural laugh or expression. The lifestyle images are the ones that are truly treasured. It’s not just about “how we looked in 2010″ but more of “how much fun we had, how much we loved each other, what we were into”.

I love to take my clients to the beach for that posed shot and then ask them to just relax and play with their kids. I love to meet them in their home where the kids are comfortable around their favorite toys. It’s the unplanned giggles, the day to day play that the families engage in, that I believe is what should really be remembered and recorded.

Here is a small collection of my favorite lifestyle portraits over the past season.

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~Zofia

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Michele Stapleton interview

March 3rd, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

ShootStyle interview with Michele Stapleton

Michele Stapleton, a Maine wedding photojournalist, started out as journalism major following the pre-law path her mother wanted her to pursue. She took all of the standard journalism classes and the single photojournalism class the school offered. This class changed everything for her. She bought her first Nikon for her last semester and says “I went crazy. I joined the yearbook staff. I joined the newspaper, I took any assignment they would give me.”

She lugged her camera with her everywhere while interning at a small newspaper and was more excited about the photography than the writing.

In the meantime, she applied to law school. “The only school I had applied to was the University of Alabama because it was the only one that didn’t have an essay on why you wanted to go to law school. I didn’t want go to law school, and I didn’t want to lie on an essay. I got accepted in December after I finished my internship.”

In the interim she applied for a summer job as a “girl” for a wedding photographer, doing office work, carrying bags, schlepping. “I told my mom ‘I know what I want to do’, my mother said ‘No way.’”  So instead Michele packed her cameras away and got a job as a runner for a law firm.

She did well in law school and got a job with a law firm.  “At this point I brought the camera stuff back out, I was one of the lawyers with the nice Nikons. I had really nice stuff but I was really unhappy.” She took an Adult Ed photography class taught by a local newspaper photographer. Each week she would shoot ten rolls of film in the Mississippi Delta, pick out the best 36 images and show them to the class.  “I was like ‘This is what makes me happy’. I spent a year hanging around the newspaper.

“I’d shoot alongside a newspaper person, I’d go to a football game and I would shoot with them. I’d pay for my own film and I’d put it in the processor and I’d lay it down next to the [staff photographers photos] and I’d go ‘Oh my god, my stuff is so bad, and their stuff is so good’. There were two guys there that were good with interns that would really give constructive criticism. I did it for a year and a half until I had worked up a portfolio of what a newspaper photographer should have.”

During this time, Michele won the grand prize in a national Nikon contest for a little league game she’d photographed. The prize was a two-week trip for four to Washington, New York, the Grand Canyon and L.A.

“That was my two-weeks vacation. I got back, and the Republican National Convention that year was in New Orleans. AP was looking for not shooters, but total runner-wannabes. AP needed volunteers to go around to the photographers and get their film and take it to the lab. That’s all you did, but it got you into the building and into the convention. I thought ‘I want to do that’, but I didn’t have any more vacation, so I walked in [to the law firm] and I quit.”

She took a job at a small paper in Alabama and then she got a staff position at the Clarion-Ledger where she shot for seven years. She took a workshop at the Maine Photographic Workshops with Jay Maisel, fell in love with the state, and grabbed a position at the Bangor Daily News when it became available.

Her transition to weddings coincided with an increase in popularity of wedding photojournalism. The new photojournalists rejected the notion that a wedding was just a series of opportunities to pose people.

ShootStyle interview with Michele Stapleton

“People who came from newspapers made such a big impression because we rejected all these rules.  At first people just thought the difference was that we weren’t posing people. We recognized that moments were happening already, that you didn’t have to make-up moments. I don’t think they realized all those other things we were doing: pushing film, dragging the shutter and not shooting everything at f8 at 250 on 100-speed film. The only thing they noticed the difference in was the moments. They didn’t notice all the other things.”

Michele has great respect for photographers who pose people and encourage their clients in scenarios, but it’s not something she’s comfortable doing. She says: “I’ve seen some fabulous shots and thought ‘oh my gosh, I wish my brides would do that’ and the photographer will say ‘Oh I suggested that’. It‘s executed so well that it looks spontaneous. It’s a hard thing for me to cross over to encouraging people to do stuff. I’m somewhat of a purist; if they don’t do it, I don’t encourage it.”

“I attract people that are a little nervous about the posed stuff and don’t want to do a lot of posed photos. I get the couples who say, “We don’t want to miss our cocktail hour, we want to spend twenty minutes max on posed photos. And that’s okay with me. ”

She prefers to get to the cocktail hour herself. “To me, the cocktail party is a great opportunity.  I don’t want to be the photographer where you open up the album and it’s the bride, groom and preacher, maybe one picture of the bridal party, maybe one picture of the family and pages and pages of posed photos of the bride and the groom.”

ShootStyle interview with Michele Stapleton

Michele explains, “My attitude is that anyone that you’ve invited and has made the trouble to come to your wedding in Maine is fair game. I want to take pictures of the bridesmaids and groomsmen other than when they are walking down the aisle. I want to get pictures of the family other than when they are being seated. The cocktail hour is a great time, they are on a patio, they’re seated on a rock wall, they are spread out and mixed around “

“I feel like that’s what makes me different. I’m taking more pictures than of just the bride and the groom. I want them to have pictures of as many people as possible, because it’s their family and their best friends and the people that are most important to them in their life. I want them to have pictures of everybody.”

ShootStyle interview with Michele Stapleton

“The best advice I got was to join the professional associations and trade groups for your profession; you network with other people who do what you do, you get online classes, you get workshops and you become friends. ASMP, PPA, WPPI, Maine PPA, I join a lot of them, I spend a lot of money on dues. The national organizations do a lot to support things that are important to photographers and they provide educational opportunities. You can’t beat the DWF, especially since we are in Maine– it’s so far way from everything– people [on the DWF] are really generous, it’s an incredible opportunity to learn everything.”

Check out her wedding work at : http://www.maineweddingphotographer.com/

and her editorial work at: http://www.michelestapleton.com/

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