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Archive for June, 2010

Finding Your Black and White in the Digital Age

June 30th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot


What is YOUR black and white?  I truly believe that black and white images are completely subjective.  Personally, I like black and white images that don’t have blocked up shadows; rather, I like to see shadow detail instead of straight black.  I also like a flatter, warmer image with a touch of grain, and I have worked hard to create and to find actions and presets that will help me achieve the black and white look that I want.

My workflow consists of a combination of Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.  Most of my work is going to occur in Adobe Lightroom- in fact, many of my images will be processed in Lightroom and nothing else.  Keep in mind that I deliver high- anything from 750 to 1250 images per wedding and 100-250 per portrait session, and I’m only fine-tuning a handful of those in Photoshop.  I want to do most of my work in Lightroom and only finesse the images that I really love in Photoshop.

My first step is to import the photographs into Lightroom.  I have three black and white presets that I have developed (one of the great things about Lightroom is the fact that it is incredibly easy to develop presets that give your raw photos the “look” that you like).  All three of the presets create a black and white with less muddy skin tones, but still a fairly flat black and white since I don’t want to lose all of that shadow detail by adding a lot of black or contrast.  The great thing about Lightroom is that you can mix your black and white to taste in the grayscale mix section of the Develop module- I like my skin tones to be a bit creamier, so I lighten my red and yellow tones (because the skin is made up of red and yellow) while darkening my blues.  My Lightroom black and white presets will give me a file that I am happy to show the client, but one that can be improved upon once I take the file into Photoshop.

Now for the Photoshop bit- I like to create my own actions and play around in Photoshop, but when it comes to black and whites I go with the one of the masters.  I have to admit, I’m a Photoshop action junkie.  I’ve tried almost everything out there because I love and adore Photoshop and I get a kick out of trying new actions.  I discard most of them, but occasionally I will find something that I really like, and I love some of the black and white actions created by  Jeff Ascough.  They are customizable and they add a little punch to my black and white image straight from Lightroom.  (Now would be an important time to mention that ANY action will give you a bad result if your file isn’t properly exposed- garbage in, garbage out.)

Finally, I occasionally run a specialty action to “season” my black and white images.  I like them to be a bit grainier, with a subtle vignette and blurred edges.  I also like a touch of a warm tone, and a more subtle contrast shift.  There are two actions that I really like when it comes to seasoning my black and white images, and both of them come from the Totally Rad Action set (one from the original, the second from the remix set).   The thing I love about these actions is that they are completely customizable.  So many action sets out there flatten your images or make the adjustments to the background layer, leaving you unable to tweak them.  The TRA set is different- the layers are left open, letting you play with the opacity of each layer to come up with a look that is your own.  My favorite is the Old Skool action (the set has several)- I run it and then lower the opacity to anywhere from 20 to 40%, but usually closer to the lower end.  (Keep in mind that I am starting with an image that has already been adjusted with a Jeff Ascough black and white action.)  This gives my images just a touch of grain, vignette, and tone.  The second action that I use to season my black and white images (used less frequently) is the Homestead black and white.  Once again, I change the tone and compression layers and then lower the opacity on the overall effect.  For me, it is important to add just a touch of these actions.  I don’t want my images to scream “TOTALLY RAD OLD SKOOL ACTION” or any action at all; rather, I want the effect to be more subtle than that.



The great thing about Lightroom and Photoshop is that MY black and white may not be YOUR black and white.  Just as you can choose your favorite black and white film, there is no need to be limited by one set way of converting a black and white in the digital age.  These two programs will give you endless options for coming up with your own look, especially if you choose actions and presets that are customizable and will allow you to play in order to find your look.

Post by Maine Wedding Photographer Michelle Turner.


How fast can you pack your bag?

June 28th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Play

Petra Hall can do it faster. :)


Light me Up!

June 23rd, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

If there’s one thing that we have in abundance here in New England, it’s lighthouses!  And as wedding photographers from Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island, we’ve had the opportunity to take advantage of these unique backdrops!

ZofiaLtHouses-22 ZofiaLtHouses-14 ZofiaLtHouses-02 Stacey4ZofiaLtHouses-15 lighthouseak2 lighthouseak1 KatieChris290 JessiHeath113 Hannah & Jake0300


Adobe Photo Shop

June 20th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Play

Seriously, that’s that’s exactly what it is.

via Craphound.com


ShootStyle Workshop: Rock Your Reception Lighting

June 16th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Mingle

ShootStyle - Wedding Reception Lighting Workshop

One of the big challenges faced by wedding photographers in New England is that our wedding receptions often take place in dark, windowless halls. Worse, these halls are sometimes run by catering managers who feel that turning the lights down to almost nothing gives their hall a romantic ambiance.

Well, that may be, but the dim atmosphere also means that Grandpa can’t read the menu and we wedding photographers can’t shoot using available light.

So the question facing us isn’t ‘should we light the reception’ but rather ‘how should we light the reception?’

There are a number of approaches to lighting the reception and each of the ShootStyle members do it a little differently as you can see in the examples below.

ShootStyle Workshop - Wedding Reception Lighting

At this hands-on lighting workshop, ShootStyle members will be demonstrating everything we know about lighting a reception. And since none of us tackle lighting a reception in exactly the same way, you’re likely to see an approach that suits your style of photography.

We’ll be working with flash on camera, flash off-camera, sync cords, radio triggers, multiple speedlights, light-on-a-stick and even studio lights. We’ll cover topics such as lighting the entire dance floor, balancing your lights with the ambient light, and creating dramatic lighting. And because time is always tight on a wedding day, we’ll also show you how to get different looks from a single lighting set up.

We’ll probably be introducing you to some new equipment was well as new techniques. We all know that buying new gear is fun, but great light starts with getting the most out of what you already own, and we’ll be there to help you do just that! Bring whatever equipment you currently have including a camera, strobe(s), stands, triggers, cords, fast lenses, etc.

There’ll be a lot to cover and we’ll be zipping right along, so to get the most out of this workshop, you’ll need to already have some understanding of basic camera function.

The Rock Your Reception Lighting workshop is happening on Monday, August 30th from 1pm to 7pm at the Biltmore Hotel in Providence, RI. It is limited to the first 20 people who sign up. Tickets cost $89 and are non-refundable (but if you find you can’t make it you can transfer your ticket to a another photographer).

We look forward to seeing you there!


“Me at Work” Assignment winners

June 16th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Mingle

Our assignment series runs every couple of months and is open to all photographers, professional, semi-pro and amateur. In our assignment series this month, we asked participants to illustrate “Me at Work”.

We had some very creative self-portrait entries. Some serious, some not so serious. :)

Below are our selections for the most creative entries, but with all the creative energy that went into all the entries, really everyone wins.

We hope you had some fun playing along and seeing everyone’s entry’s on our facebook page! Thank you for playing and now …. The Winners!!!

First Place is Greg Hinson’s self-portrait of himself in the operating room. There was some funny chatter going on over this photo on our Facebook page and a very funny back-story about the making and selling of this image.

Second place is Joshua Behan doing a funky mirror piece.


And third place is Rachel Worrall, a writer who has done a lot of modeling for ShootStylers, shot amidst a sea of clothing, making decisions.



Skin Deep – How I Retouch A Face

June 9th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

I’ve been doing a lot of model shoots recently, which means a lot of skin retouching, so I thought I’d share some of the basics of how I approach retouching a face. Well, actually, all the techniques would be the same if I were retouching arms, legs, or other skin, but I figured that I’d start with the face as that’s the most important part of person.

The example I’m going to be using for this article is a photo I took of my favorite model, Rachel. Looking at her, you might wonder why in the world you’d need to retouch her at all. In all honesty, if all you were going to do were post a small image on the web, you might not have to do anything at all. But if you plan on printing the image large, you’ll start to find things that just jump out at you. They are often things that you wouldn’t even notice in real life. You only notice them when you have time the study the image.

In general I try to keep my retouching natural-looking. I try to avoid anything that screams “Hey, look at the photoshopped face!” Because of this, I can’t rely solely on any of the actions and filters or plugins for Photoshop that intend to make skin look softer.

I’ve found that for the most part they are too noticeable for my taste. They cause the image to lose detail and make face look plasticky. For my work there’s no substitute a bunch of detail oriented editing. That doesn’t mean these tools don’t have their place, in fact there are a couple I use all the time for part of my retouching process.

So let’s get into it. If you want to follow along, I’ve posted a high resolution version of the image I’m working on here:

Another way to follow along is to watch the following QuickTime slideshow, which has a closeup from every major step along the way:

After I open an image in Photoshop, the first thing I do before working on it is to duplicate the background layer and duplicate the background layer by typing Command + J. I rename the resulting layer ‘retouch’.

Working on this retouch layer allows me to revert back to my original image if I make a mistake at any point.

The first thing I attack when retouching a face is small blemishes, pimples, flakes of makeup, or any tiny dark spot or bump on the subjects skin. To get these little buggers, I select the Spot Healing Brush Tool. by typing the letter ‘j’.

One of the best ways to speed up your retouching, or any Photoshop activity, really, is to learn to use the shortcut keys associated with the tools you use most frequently. Click and hold on the Spot Healing Brush Tool and a menu will pop up allowing you to choose any of the related tools in this group including the Spot Healing Brush Tool, the regular Healing Brush Tool, the Patch Tool and the Red Eye Tool.

Notice that next to each tool is the letter J. This is to let you know that you can select the currently visible tool in this group at any time by clicking j on your keyboard. Even better, if you hold down the Shift key and press J repeatedly, you can cycle through and select any of these tools without having to click on the icon in the toolbar. This is a HUGE time saver.

So if you’re following along, type shift-j-j-j until the Spot Healing Brush is selected.

Now go to the Options Bar above the tool bar and set the painting mode to Lighten. This will cause the brush to make darker area lighter while having little or no effect on lighter areas.

I like to work at 100% size so I can see actual pixels when retouching. To quickly zoom to 100%, type Command + Option + 0.

With the Spot Healing Brush, you just click on spots you want to fix. It works best if the brush size is about the same size as the spots you are clicking on.

Here I’m using a brush size of 20. You can change the brush size by clicking on the Brush menu in the Options Bar, or even easier by using the bracket keys [ and ] on you keyboard. then just go around and click on any dark spots or blemishes you see. Here is an example of all the spots I clicked on:

The white dots show both the location and the sizes I used for the brush.

Now let’s switch the Spot Healing Brush to Darken mode and click on any dark spots, like stray glitter or shiny bumps.

After getting rid of small spots on the skin, I work on wrinkles. When working on wrinkles, I duplicate the retouch layer by typing Command + J. This gives me the ability to quickly restore some of the lines I remove later.

Because these lines are bigger, I use the Patch Tool instead of a Healing Brush to remove them. So if you’re following along, type shift-j-j-j until the Patch Tool is selected.

You can also click on it in the tool bar. (But why would you when typing shift-j-j-j is so fast?)

Also, make sure the Patch Tool is set to Source in the Options Bar.

Let’s start by working around the eyes. Type Command and the + key to zoom in to 200%. Using the Patch Tool, draw a selection around a line near the eyes. Make the selection close to the line.

Now drag the selection to an area of smoother skin to patch it. You’ll see that the selected area now takes on the appearance of the area of skin that you dragged to.

The key to making the patch tool work well is always dragging to an area that has a similar skin texture to the region you are patching. Also, don’t always drag to the exact same area or you’ll end up with a skin texture that repeats and looks photoshopped.

Continue the process by selecting each line around the eyes and patching it.

Go ahead. I’ll wait. :)

Done? Great! Now that we’ve removed all those lines and wrinkles, it’s time to bring them back… somewhat. Having some wrinkles and lines is a part of the personality of the face, and to eliminate them totally can look a little too botox-y. We did all of this patching on a copy of the retouch layer so that we could easily turn the opacity of the entire layer up and down until we find the perfect amount amount of smoothness.

For me that turned out to be about 50% opacity.

Now that we’re satisfied with the skin around the eyes, type Command + E to merge the top layer back down into the retouch layer.

The other area of the face that has lines I often want to reduce is the forehead, so let’s work on that next. This will be very similar to the process we used for the eyes.

Start by duplicating the retouch layer by typing Command + J.

Draw a selection around lines on the forehead and drag to areas of the forehead that have a similar texture. Don’t try to select long lines all at once – break them up into multiple smaller selections. Also, some wrinkles and lines you may not want to touch at all.

For example, the wrinkles above Rachel’s raised eyebrow really need to stay there for her expression to look natural.

Just like with the eyes, once you’ve removed all the lines and wrinkles from the forehead, it’s time to lower the opacity of this layer to bring them back a little. I’ll bet an opacity of around 65% works great. If you agree, type Command + E to merge the top layer down into the retouch layer.

While I have the patch tool selected, I’ll go around and patch other things that draw my attention, like the bright spot to the right of the nose, the dark spot on tip of her nose, the dark spots on chin, and some faint lines and spots on her neck. This is also a great time to patch all the things you missed way back at the beginning when you were working with the spot healing brush.

This brings us to the eyes themselves. Rachel’s eyes present a number of challenges. They are slightly bloodshot and a little red and in shadow.

Type l to select the lasso tool.

Or click on the Lasso tool in the Toolbar.

Now click and drag a circle loosely around one eye to select it. Hold down the shift key to add to the selection and drag a circle loosely around the other eye to select it as well. Your selection should look something like this:

It’s fine if you’ve selected a little extra, but make sure you have all of both eyes selected.

So far, every other time we created a layer using Command + J, we got an exact duplicate of the layer we were working on. But now we have something selected. Type Command + J and notice that instead of getting a duplicate layer, we get a new layer that’s blank except for the eyes.

We’re going to be doing some detail work here, so if you’re not still zoomed in, zoom way in to 200% or 400%.

The first thing to retouch about the eyes are the red veins. To remove these let’s type S to select the Clone Stamp Tool. In the Options Bar, set the painting mode to Lighten, and set the opacity to 50%. With the Clone Stamp Tool, you Option + Click on an area first to tell the tool what part of the image you want to sample. then you click and paint somewhere else on the image. Whatever you option-clicked gets painted into the area you are working on. Here’s how we’re going to tackle cloning out the veins in the eye:

Using the bracket keys [ and ] on you keyboard, set the size of your brush to be about the same thickness as a vein. In the diagram above, the green circles are areas you are going to sample by Option-Clicking. After you Option-Click, start painting at the point where the yellow circle is located and move in the direction of the arrow. Your opacity is 50% so it may well take more than one stroke to cover a line.

You’ll notice that you are sampling areas very close to where you are painting, and when you are painting near the eyelid, you are sampling a similar edge of the eyelid and then painting out into the eye.

Use the Clone Stamp tool to remove the veins from both eyes.

You may have some weird transitions left over which you can clean up with patch tool.

With the veins removed, we can now remove the overall red cast from the eyes by desaturating them a bit. Command-Click on the eye layer’s thumbnail in the Layers Palette. This selects everything that is not transparent in the layer.

Now from the Layer Menu, choose New Adjustment Layer–>Hue/Saturation. In the new Hue/Saturation layer, turn the saturation all the way down to 0. This will look weird as the eyes will go black and white.

That’s OK for now as we are going to paint out the areas of skin that we don’t want affected on the layer mask. To get ready to paint on the layer mask, type the following:
B – to select the Brush Tool
D – to default the colors to black and white
X – to switch the black and white swatches in palette so you’ll be painting with black

With the Brush Tool selected, paint on the areas of skin around the eyeballs as well as the irises and pupils. As you paint in black on the layer mask, the area you paint will return to full color. Once you’re done, lower the opacity of the Hue/Saturation layer to whatever feels right. You want enough color so that it seems real, but not so much that it looks too red. For me 30% seemed to work well.

Type Command + E to merge the Hue/Saturation layer down into eyes layer.

Now let’s brighten the eyes a little. Again we’ll Command-Click on the eye layer’s thumbnail in the Layers Palette to select everything that’s not transparent in the layer.

Now from the Layer Menu, choose New Adjustment Layer–>Levels. In the new Levels layer, move the middle gray arrow to the left to brighten the eyes to taste. It’s OK to make them a hair too bright as you can lower the opacity of the layer later.

That helps the eyes pop a lot without looking too fake. It’s affecting part of the skin too, so with the Brush Tool still selected, paint on the layer mask of the Levels layer to hide the areas of skin around the eyeballs.

When it looks good to you, type Command + E to merge the Levels layer down into eyes layer, then type Command + E one more time to merge the Eyes layer down into the retouch layer.

Remember way back at the beginning of this article, I said that there were some skin softening plugins and actions that I would use as part of my retouching workflow? Well this is were I use them. Now that I’ve done all of the intricate detail work on an image, a lightly applied filter that evens out the remaining skin tones a little can be useful. The plugin I find myself reaching for most often these days is the Portraiture Plug in from Imagenomic.

The reasons I like Portraiture are:

1) It targets skin tones and leaves objects with other colors in the photo alone.
2) It retains a lot of detail in the areas it targets for smoothing.
3) I can tell it what color the skin tones in my image are.
4) It creates a layer that is transparent except for the areas it is softening, making it easy for me to further tweak the softening by erasing it from areas of the image or changing the opacity of the entire layer.

The above image shows both the default (lowest) setting for Portraiture and the highest setting. As you can see, it retains a lot of detail and avoids looking too plasticky even at it’s highest setting.

Finally, I’ll do a little dodging and burning, selectively lightening and darkening areas of the image to finish it off. I could use some of the dodging and burning techniques I demonstrated in my earlier Blending Fun article, but instead I think I’ll plug another maker of cool Photoshop Tools. Yin/Yang is a dodging and burning action that is part of the Totally Rad Actions Set, Volume one. This set is chock full of insanely useful actions like Yin/Yang that I find myself using all the time.

Yin/Yang creates two layers called Yin and Yang. Paint on the layer mask of Yin to darken areas of your image, and on the layer mask of Yang to brighten parts of the image. You can see from the image above that I used Yin to darken the edges of the image and to darken the red wall a little. I used Yang to brighten up the black feathery area of the hat and to brighten some of the shadow areas of Rachel’s face.

And that’s about it. But before we go, here’s a before and after of the image.

And here’s a link to a high res version of the final image:

I know there are a million ways to ‘skin’ this particular cat :). I’d love to hear how you approach retouching faces in your workflow. Let me know in the comments. Also, if you have any questions, ask them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them for you.



June 2nd, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Shoot

headshots are interesting images to create. not quite portraits, yet with many of the qualities of portraits.

you want the eyes to ‘speak’ to the viewer, drawing them in. making them think, ‘yes, i do want to know more about this person!’ sort of a visual calling card. actors, business professionals, models … practically anyone with a head could one day need or want a headshot.

so what are some tips we could offer you when heading out to shoot images like this? first, find out the way in which the client will be using the headshot, is it for commercial filming, theatre, professional marketing purposes? each of these may require a different approach. for instance, when photographing someone that may need a shot for theatre work, you may want to create a shot with controlled studio lighting and a simple black backdrop.



commercial uses, i have found now-a-days, rely on color images created in natural environmental settings. typically i’ll take a client to a nearby park or down a city street to capture a laid back relaxed image of them. i’ve had moments where the out of doors just won’t work, for instance when it’s pouring rain out (like New England likes to do time & again). i do use my studio and the space within my building in times like this.



however, if you do not have a studio space available to you, try contacting a local hotel. lots of the providence area hotels are quite accommodating, as are some of the cafes in the area. a number of the lobbies have a great amount of natural lighting and interesting furniture & artwork you can incorporate into the scene.



for corporate pieces, i will create an image of the client in their own environment, closer to a portrait. utilizing their everyday surroundings that will help illustrate to those viewing what type of work they are involved in. for instance, a banker, i may set up an image within the lobby of their bank. a chef, maybe somewhere within the kitchen of their restaurant. anything that best illustrates their daily goings on.



when creating headshots, i tend not to just jump right in and start shooting. i like to talk with the client first, not fiddle with equipment. a lot of folks are not comfortable in front of a camera. to just start snapping away may make them nervous. which will translate into the image.

make eye contact, ask about their work, their field, what they did that day. become comfortable with conversing with them. be aware of when they seem stiff, when they are holding their breath. that’s a cue to take the camera away from your face and reconnect with the person in front of you. tell them to take a break. make them aware of the fact that they can say ‘ i need a time out’ at any point during the shoot.

let them ease into the shoot, know that the first few frames (or more) may only be practice. that’s okay. no one is counting. what’s important is making certain that your client can breathe easily once you really start to create an image for them and that they trust in you and your abilities to not only produce a working photo of them, yet also trust that you care about the process + outcome.

share with us some of your tips when creating headshots. we’d love to hear from you!


Assignment Series: “Me at Work”

June 1st, 2010  |  by  |  published in Mingle

In this installment of our assignment series, we bring you the phrase “Me at work!”

Your assignment is to illustrate the concept “Me at work”. This might be a photojournalistic exercise or an artistic construction. We leave it up to you to define the phrase and how you will interpret it.  But you do have to be the “author” of the image. Don’t give us a photo your second shooter shot of you working.

Our assignment series is open to everyone. You don’t have to be a working photographer, you can be any kind of worker. We’re hoping you’ll wanna play along.

The most creative entry wins! Actually, everyone wins. We will post all of the entries on our facebook page, and post a few of our favorites on our blog, complete with a link back to your blog or website.

Images should be sized to 590 pixels on the long side. If you need help figuring that out, ask your favorite Shootstyler! And by all means, slap that logo on there if you have one! Email your entry to:


We have an album on our Facebook fan page. When the entries start coming in, we’ll post them there first. Check in with us at Facebook if you are looking for some inspiration.


The deadline is June 14, a Monday. If you have a photo you shot already (think reflections)  of you working , that would be awesome.  If you want to set up some sort of story or fantasy of you at work, even better!

Let’s have fun doing this together!!Assignment series: “Me at work!”


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