The Fine Photograph

I am back from Indiana where I gave a seminar on Photography, Lightroom and Photoshop. Many thanks to a great group of people at the Goshen Photography Guild for their support for the program which sold out the available seats. The venue was great and the experience was wonderful and fun.

The day after the seminar a group of us went after images at Michigan City along the lake with the Chicago skyline visible (slightly) in the distance. Some were hoping for a sunset with the skyline, but cool air and wind were there instead.

IMAGE SHARPENING

As is typical when giving a seminar, you never know how the questions and overall flow will go until it happens. I wanted to include a section on image sharpening which time did not allow. So, I want to direct people to my Learning Page for more information and in particular the two articles, Smart Sharpen , and the High Pass Filter for sharpening images. There are, of course, many other ways to sharpen images, but these two are both powerful, versatile, and the most used.

The two gulls in the photograph above were surprisingly cooperative considering the exposure time for the image was 20 seconds. This was done with the aid of a neutral density filter that allows the moving water and clouds to appear as smooth tones rather than fine detail, while stationary content is registered in a normal manner. Great fun.

Photoshop Seminar April 29, 2017

A reminder that next Saturday, April 29th, 2017 is the Photoshop Seminar at the Hershey Public Library, in Hershey, PA. Doors open at 9:30. The seminar is three hours and will cover a number of Photoshop techniques for enhancing images including blend modes, selection techniques, and creating and modifying masks.

The library asks that you sign up and pay in advance. The fee is $45. Hope to see you there.

The abstract image above has been selected for inclusion in the online gallery of images by the Cultural Center of Cape Cod. It was selected from 711 entries from the US and Canada. I am delighted to be included.

Information on Photoshop techniques are always available on my Learning page at my website.

Much Ado

There are many things happening in April. Here are some reminders.

Saturday, April 1st, 2017 – Harrisburg Camera Club, Light and Creativity Workshop at Central Penn College in Enola. Information Here

Saturday, April 1st through 3rd – PPA of PA Convention at the Comfort Suites Hotel in Carlisle.Information Here

Doshi Exhibit at Susquehanna Art Museum – running currently and extended through  Sunday, May 21, 2017 with free “Third in the Burg” admission for the reception on Friday, April 21st from 6-9pm..

Sunday April 23, 2017 – Outdoor Lighting Workshop – Master Photographers Terry Blain and Bryson Leidich will offer tips on posing and off camera flash techniques at Terry’s studio in Carlisle, PA. Information is on my web page for the workshop.

Saturday, April 29th, 2017 – Photoshop Seminar – I will be teaching Photoshop image editing techniques at a workshop in the Hershey Library. Doors open at 9:30 a.m.

Create your own seminar

It is often difficult to know what topics interest people at any point in time. At the same time I am often asked when my next seminar will be. Seminars take effort to create, often considerably more time than the seminar itself. Specialty seminars can be especially time consuming making sure that appropriate sample material is produced.

I have created an alternative concept. I will let you create the seminar. I have an entry on my website learning page that will allow you and your friends to decide what seminar I teach. Some suggestions are listed, but topics related to photography and Photoshop/Elements are all options.

In Lightroom, Photoshop and Elements I can work with your images rather than my own, bringing the learning closer to your needs. Most students are amazed at how some basic and pretty simple techniques can substantially improve their output.

Some people can learn on-line from tutorials about certain techniques, but I have found that most people do not know what processes, tools and techniques they can use to begin with. This is where I can be particularly helpful.

Individual and group seminars can be created and made to suit your schedule. As an example I am offering any local camera club a seminar in Lightroom basic raw image processing and integrating Lightroom with Photoshop or Elements using club member images at no charge. Clubs outside of the Harrisburg/Hershey area are welcome to take advantage of the offer as well. Please contact me to make arrangements.

Cameras only produce source material; the image maker is responsible for creating the final result. There are many photographers out there who see interesting images but don’t know how to take their captures to the next step. Plugins and actions are not how you get where you want to be.

The Subject Doesn’t Win the Award!

You are walking into a photography exhibit and a friend who is leaving tells you to check out the great photograph of the red flower. You find it and agree, but is it a great photograph of a red flower, or a great photograph because it is a red flower? Is it simply an accurate representation of the flower or an image that is compelling in spite of the subject matter?

Good images are good because of many things such as mood, color, composition, balance, leading lines, visual impact, and a host of other variables. Subject matter is often the least of the determining factors. Documentation and photojournalism may make the time, place and content of an image rise to a higher level of importance, but most photography has little to do with the subject matter beyond our initial reaction.

We begin to see images using the left side of our brain, the side that recognizes content. The right side of our brain is analyzing the light, the tone, the color, and most importantly, the structure. Essentially, the right side of your brain is making the image an abstraction and checking it for balance and composition. It is deciding whether or not the image “feels” right with respect to what we understand from our experience and study of other art and photography.

That means we can train ourselves to be better. The more experience we have with good images, the more our brain can help us decide whether we really like what we are looking at. It can help us be better photographers. The more you challenge the right side of your brain with good images the greater the database it creates to use to determine the quality of your own work. This is how you can teach yourself to be a better image maker.

Another way to look at it might be this. If all you see, all you investigate are average photographs your own image making will not likely exceed that benchmark. You can actually create a roadblock to your own creativity if you do not look at better images. Stretching the limits of what you see as possible can help you recognize what is simply ordinary.

I will be speaking this coming Monday, April 4th, 2016 at the meeting of the West Shore Photography Club. The meeting is at the Bethany Towers Community Room on Wesley Drive in Mechanicsburg, PA at 7 p.m. My topic for discussion is post processing, including tips on setting up Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw for efficiency. I will illustrate my post processing workflow with an emphasis on what can be done in Photoshop or Elements to move beyond initial raw processing for greater impact.

Resolve to make better images in 2016

You are the first obstacle to better image making.

All of us make New Year’s resolutions, and they usually involve something like “make better images”, lose weight, stop smoking, etc. I will give you better odds on the images if you approach the issue as a problem to be solved and work methodically toward a goal. There are several steps to image making and you have to break your photography into those steps to find the weak links and repair them.

The Photographer: Yep, you are the first obstacle to better image making. You need to analyze the images you are making and attempt to understand the weaknesses. This can be difficult depending on the amount of experience you have and how much time you invest in the process of looking at images, shooting, and processing. One aspect of this we can analyze is the mechanical process of capture.

Not everyone’s photography is suited to a tripod, but no matter how you shoot you need to fully understand certain physical limitations that might influence your image making. Images that are unsharp from camera movement are common with hand held shooting. Often there are mistakes made in decisions of shutter speed, choice of ISO, aperture and the physical way you hold and fire your camera.

The Hardware: The camera you own, the lenses you use, the flash, even the tripod you thought would solve the problems can all be a plus or minus in the capture. You don’t want the equipment to be in the way of a good outcome. If the camera can’t make a good image, you will not overcome that primary step in the image making. This doesn’t mean you need to own the newest, best, most expensive equipment. You do need to be aware of the ability of the camera system to make a good capture. Yes, good images can be made with small point and shoot cameras and mid-level equipment if properly used. But there is a lot of “junk” on the market and careful attention to competent reviews can mean a lot.

The Software: This should not be a problem as the processing software that came with your camera or a move into good quality software like Lightroom should mean that processing the image has the potential to produce a quality image. Secondary finishing in Elements or Photoshop is another level of control and refinement. The software available today is way more powerful than anything in the past and the biggest obstacle here will be the learning curve. There is more to processing than most people realize. Here again, you become a limiting factor and better processing means better images.

The Print: Print quality is essential to a good final image. Making the prints yourself sounds like a good idea until you realize that the printing process is anything but a button push away and you are back to a steep learning curve and the possibility of a lot of questionable decisions. Good printing is an art form.

Whether seen on a screen or printed the final representation of your vision very much depends on you. The processing step in digital image making is both a difficult task and a very important part of the process. It is a challenging part of better image making. If you have ever heard a piece of classical music performed by a junior high school orchestra you know that the performance is the issue, not the composer. If your captures are good and you see well, your images deserve the best possible performance. Training yourself to perform well is the hard part.

I will be speaking on these issues and detailing many of the aspects of shooting and processing at a meeting of the Hershey Camera Club this coming Thursday night, January 7th, 2016. The meeting is at the Country Meadows Retirement Community room on the second floor. The doors open at 6:00. All are welcome.

New image galleries are almost ready. I hope to have them on line in the next day or two.

Temporary Layers

Sometimes you have a layer stack that is rather involved, or even just some color modifications that make it difficult to know what layer to make a selection from for the next step. You most likely want a selection from something that represents the current state of the file. How can you do that?

Make a merged visible layer at the top of the stack using the four key shortcut <Ctrl><Alt><Shift>E – [<Cmd><Option><Shift>E] – and use the merged layer to make your selection. The problem is that you have added another pixel layer to the file.That added pixel layer has two downsides. First it increases the size of your file. Second, it renders adjustments below it inaccessible. The solution is really pretty simple. Throw it away.

Once you have used the layer to make your selection and added the needed adjustment layer above it the layer has served its purpose. Removing it has no effect on the file visually, it simply eliminates an unnecessary layer full of unwanted pixels.

My practice is to keep pixel layers at the bottom of the stack as much as possible. Retouching on blank layers and other pixel based corrections are also kept at the bottom. This means that color overlays, adjustment layers and such can be stacked on top and remain modifiable. If you are a fan of Smart Objects this may not be an issue for you, but if you work in stacked layers as I do you may need this technique on occasion. If I add a pixel layer in the midst of a stack and it just has to stay there I label it “must keep” or similar and group the layers below it into something that helps me remember what is happening at that level and why.