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Tuesday
May032011

quick hit: fight the power

sometimes i catch myself spacing out at a shoot (actually, just about anywhere i go). i'll notice something off to the side between poses or locations. here, i noticed one bulb resisting the conformity of its brethren. 


i don't think so. bulby don't play dat.

i think the blog gods may smile upon me and grant me the time to compose a full blog post this coming weekend. until then, stay classy, internet.


a tribe called quest sample as a hook? auto-like.

Saturday
Apr232011

quick hit: doin' PP work (ha.)

so there i go disappearing from the blogosphere again for another long stretch. i keep promising more regular posts, but things inevitably get backed up, and truth be told, i'm pretty quick to ax a scheduled blog post to try to maintain my sanity (operative word: try). so i get this idea: how about a low-stress, barely-thought-out new regular feature i call "quick hit"? it sounds simple enough: keep the prose to a minimum and simply post up a random shot or two just to let everyone know i'm still around and grindin'.

so for my inaugural quick hit, i was just getting underway on some heavy post-processing (a.k.a. "PP") when my eyes wandered down to the iphone laying on my desk. in it i could see the reflection of the grid of photos in front of me. "could be a nice shot," i thought. snap, bang…here you go. 

as i mentioned in my prior post, i've been spending more time hitting the shutter button than the left-click button. well, the equal and opposite reaction to that is spending a ton of time post-processing the photos i've been taking (or as the title of this blogpost implies, PP'ing on my photos. har.) . enjoy this quick hit while i pound away at that old left-click button.

p.s. i also thought i may allow myself to be a little more…edgy in these quick hits. so i may be a little more abstract with the photos and musical selections. specific to the music: parental guidance is suggested.

this is on constant repeat on my ipod. reks - kill ’em. 

and on one last note: go celtics.

Monday
Mar282011

behind the curtain, part 2: mmm…drop!

march has gotten a bit thick with work. thankfully, i've been pushing the shutter button more than the left-click button. i think most photographers will tell you they're happiest shooting out "in the field," but a little less enthusiastic the other 90% of the time stuck behind their monitors processing photos. the upside of this digital photography age is the shortening of the learning curve for advanced "dslr" cameras. instant image feedback on lcd screens makes it possible to play with settings and immediately learn what works and what doesn't. the downside though is the necessity to learn photo editing software. "necessity" might be a bit of an overstatement, but if you really want to add an extra layer of polish to your images, i find it quite important. 

though i've been complimented on my processing skills, the most important aspect in creating a good image is the initial capture. not all photos can be "saved," and when snapping hundreds, if not thousands, of photos in a single shoot, it's just not practical to spend 20 minutes to a half-hour perfecting each and every image. it's for this reason that adobe photoshop isn't my main processing tool. programs such as adobe lightroom and apple aperture are built more for a photographer's workflow by fleshing out the most important post-processing adjustments and isolating them for us. i find that photoshop can get a bit dense with its complex tools and options. 95% of what i need to do to my photos can be accomplished in lightroom. 

rather than tranquilize you with the boring ramblings of my processing beliefs and observations, how about i share a few before-and-afters? please note: it can be very…difficult…to share this sort of thing. i don't think any photographer wants to illustrate the fact that his or her images don't come out of the camera sparkling with visual pixie dust, ready to display at the louvre. once again though, i personally find behind-the-scenes looks to be super-fascinating. 

on a sidetone, i'm embarrassed to admit my favorite book genre is sports. sports books that offer insight into what goes on in the locker rooms, the huddles, in the heat of battle…that stuff interests me to NO END. so consider this "behind the curtain" series my attempt at melding my photography with…sports books!


before.

after. the main highlight of this pair of shots of the choi boys is color contrast. i give almost all of my photos a color contrast boost. what does this do? well, it helps my colors pop a little more than they do straight out of the camera (or "SOOC"). one of the things that really piqued my interest in post-processing was the sheer pop and vibrance some of the photographers i admired had in their photos. it took a lot of studying and trial & error to hone this technique, but eventually i put together my own color contrast lightroom preset that i dubbed yutaka hot sauce. yum.

before.

after. in the choi boys shot, you may notice that i slightly brightened the image. when shooting outdoors, i tend to slightly underexpose in order to preserve my highlights. occasionally though, i misfire and overexpose (an occupational hazard when you shoot in manual mode). in this shot of a dog at play while being boarded at a pet resort in escondido, bumping back exposure brought back the rich browns of his lovely coat. bumping back exposure also richened the green of the grass, offering a nice contrast to the dog and adding some depth to the shot. don'tcha just wanna take this fella home?! 

before.

after. besides being another good example of yutaka hot sauce, this shot of the top of a cake at a baby's 1st birthday dohl demonstrates the importance of white balance. i find my camera's auto white balance tends to give me slightly warm results. pay particular attention to the white of the cake. SOOC, white balance temperature was @ 4350 K (kelvin). i adjusted it by eye to 3875 K. there are plenty of methods to attaining perfect white balance when shooting the shot (which in turn balances a photographer's colors out to a near-perfect duplication of reality); however, i believe that white balance is one of the most important tools in creating a photographer's style. call it "artistic interpretation," or call it the adult version of playing color-by-numbers. some photographers like their shots warm. some like them cool. i myself teeter back and forth between the two.  

before.

after. ahhh…sweet flare. it's one of my favorite lighting techniques: with the sun behind your subject, let its rays flood your camera lens and sensor, creating dramatic refractions of light in the form of rainbow arcs. it's a bit tricky to post-process to get pleasing results though. as you can see in the before shot of the seabirds vegan catering truck, that flood of light wreaks havoc on the contrast of this shot. it's almost like a white glaze of light is washing everything out. the trick is to bump up your blacks, in addition to toning down exposure significantly (i overexposed this shot by a lot). the "black clipping" slider affects only the darkest parts of an image. in this case, i wanted the chalkboard, the "S," even the patron's silhouette, to become richer, thus letting the colorful writing pop and even make the man more anonymous (directing attention more to the truck than the person). this is not the best photograph in a technical sense, but i like it in a more personal, artistic way.

before.

after. it's very important in wedding photography to have many of the processing techniques i've discussed to this point come together in concert. a bride's dress is the face of a wedding. i think most women (my wife included) mutter some sort of approval or critique of a bride's dress when they first see it ("oh my god, she looks SO beautiful in that dress!" or "oh, that is NOT a flattering look for her!"). that being the case, it's of the utmost importance (to me) to process wedding images so the bride's dress is as vibrantly white and detailed as possible. with the direct light beaming over this santa barbara beach, i could easily have shot and/or processed this image with the details of her dress blown out. "blown out" means the brightest parts of her dress registering as pure white, thus you cannot see the texture of the fabric, the ripples as it flows in the breeze, or even tell between it and the white tide of the ocean. this is why i may shoot it a tad underexposed (preserving the bright details which cannot be recovered once they're blown out), but then bump it back up in post to just the right amount of silky smooth butteriness.

before.

after. i just shot this last saturday. it was one of my first attempts at a long exposure to create streaking freeway lights. this before and after really brings home my point of style. i really think either shot is an interesting interpretation of downtown LA and the 110 freeway, yet they look very different. so what processing wizardry was cast on this shot? simply yutaka hot sauce and 1,250 K of cooler white balance. that's it. the point: not every shot needs much processing, if any at all.

so there you have it. another look behind the curtain, this time focusing on the visual pixie dust that i sprinkle on my images. the next time you're looking for a photographer to shoot your portrait or event, i hope this both sheds a little light on what we do (besides hit the shutter button) and how one photographer's style can differ from another's. in my opinion, many of the before shots are perfectly acceptable, were that my style. however, i tend to like my images vibrant with a healthy dose of color contrast, cool-ish in white balance, and a bit high-key (bright). if you're considering hiring me, i hope you share some of the same taste.

tune in next time behind the curtain when i discuss my equipment.

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there is no real tie-in between this post and video accompaniment. i just made a reference to this video in a conversation today, revisited it this evening, and remembered how cool it was. hey, here's a tie-in: imagine how much post-production was involved in this video, considering it was shot entirely backwards. it's brilliant! video directed by spike jonze, performance by the pharcyde, and song produced by the late, great j dilla.

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