Wednesday, November 10, 2010

photo post production

photo corrected in post production

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Scott’s Guest Post: Play-By-Play Post Production on This Popular Photo

Photoshop Tutorials - Digital Post Production

A Holistic Approach
to Lighting and
Digital Photography
Skip introduction - Go to Tutorials

Welcome to Chuck Gardner's photography and lighting tutorials which offer baseline concepts for beginners.
Most wanting to learn portrait lighting and look for "playbook" diagrams to tell them where to place the lights on the floor when what they really need to understand is where the light needs to be relative to the face to flatter it. The problem with playbook solutions is that every face is a different shape, and not all the conventional playbook patterns are effective or flattering.

My approach is perceptual and goal oriented. The "big picture" goal of the exercise of making a photograph and sharing it is creating the desired emotional reaction in the mind of the viewer. To do that predictably and effectively in a photo we need to consciously understand how the viewer will react on a perceptual level to implied body language and other sub-conscious clues in it:
Contrast attracts the eye of the viewer.

What contrasts the most strongly against the overall background tone will attract the most attention.

Every photo should have a point of visual balance or center of interest (COI) for the viewer's eye to find and a tonal "roadmap" leading to it.

Making the COI the most compelling tonal area in the photo helps the viewer find it easily and delivers the message effectively.

If the COI is not the most compelling tonal area in the photo what is will distract and the message will be less effective.

My tutorials will not make you any more creative than you are by nature, but with a sound conceptual baseline and a holistic approach to lighting, clothing and background you will be able to "work the problem" to discover the most effective strategy to deliver the message of your photos by leading the viewer to what is most important and holding their attention on it.

Feedback is welcome. My goal is to appeal to as many different personal learning styles possible. If you read anything you don't understand or you think something is factually or technically incorrect please drop me a line via e-mail and let me know.
Tutorial Sections:

Holistic Lighting Concepts

The Canon EX Flash System

DIY Diffuser and other projects

Using Hot Shoe Flash

Metering and Interpreting the Histogram

Tips on Camera Technique

Post Processing Techniques

Selecting Equipment

Older Tutorials


Contact Information

Holistic Lighting Concepts
Sun Tzu and the Art of Lighting This was a new take on answering the question, "I just bought some lights, now what?" in one of the lighting forums. It received many favorable comments from readers so I've added it here at the beginning as an introductory overview.

Strategic Thinking Everything is learned by trial and error but there is less error and wasted effort if every new lighting problem you encounter starts with defining the fundamental goals of the exercise, which for a photo is what is most important and how you want to viewer to react to it. Becoming self-critical is the key to progressing up the learning curve so for each goal you set you should define criteria for success. Having a clear idea of what body language makes a person look extroverted and glad to meet a stranger vs. someone who is introverted and shy will make it easy to understand whether or not putting light in the eyes, or not, is the best strategy. Learn to think strategically from goals and you can figure out any new lighting problem.

The Holistic Approach What's different about my approach is that it starts with the question of what makes a view react to a photo, then tries to answer it based on a understanding of human perception and the optical illusion which causes the brain to accept a pattern of contrasting tone and color on a 2D screen or print as being real. It's really all a magic trick, and like magic the secret in doing it well is understanding what the audience expects to see. When you manage to deliver it content in the photo looks "normal" and real and it triggers the same emotional reaction as seeing the same thing in person. This is an overview of the approach. The nuts and bolts techniques are contained the other tutoials listed below.

Why do you use "hard" or "soft" light Much of what you'll read on this site challenges conventional wisdom and conventional terminology like light being hard or soft. Human perception is based on expectations. You know what a human head and face look like so the lighting style really doesn't tell you what the object looks like but rather the environment the object is in. The emotional reaction to the content is often the result of whether or not the context of the environment seems "normal" or not.

Creating the illusion of 3D in a 2D photo All the clues about 3D shape in a 2D photo come from contrast patterns which trigger recollections of seeing similar objects and scenes in person. This tutorial explains our baseline for "normal" and how to mimic what is experienced in person in 3D in the 2D universe of a photograph.

Light Space - A Communication Tool For Portrait Lighting The traditional practice of using the lens axis as the baseline for key light placement does describe the actual cause and effect of how lighting patterns are created on a face. I use the spot between the eyes as the "Compass Rose" for describing key light placement and a three coordinate system similar to Lab color space to describe where to put the key light in space relative to the face. To communicates to a beginner wanting to know where to put the key light can follow instead of the traditional labels like "short", "broad", "butterfly", "Rembrandt", etc.

COI for THOU (The Hard of Understanding) This was done as a joke in response to a couple guys on a forum who said they didn't understand why a center of interest in a scene or portrait is important. It illustrates the holistic approach to lighting.

Human Perception Exercise The BIG SECRET about lighting is revealed: It's not the light, but rather contrast and relative brightness of areas in the photo which triggers the brain to react and move the eye in a photo. This concept is the foundation for my contrast-based approach for teaching lighting.

Seeing Photographically Basic photographic concepts for beginners. A quick "food for thought" outline of how a camera captures an image differently that we normally perceive with our eyes.

Process Control of Exposure Basic photographic concepts for beginners. An overview of the three variables controlling exposure on a digital camera and a decision tree for deciding how to use them.

Process Control of Color Basic photographic concepts for beginners. An overview of the how color is managed with a digital camera and problem situations to be aware of.

Using the Camera Overexposure Warning Getting perfectly exposed highlights in clothing and skin is as simple as throwing in the towel. The best measure of exposure is the last shot taken and using a white towel as a test target will allow your camera playback to tell you when and exactly where over-exposure and loss of detail is occurring.

The White Towel Method for Perfect Exposure without a Flash Meter An explanation of how to set exposure and ratios using a white towel and the camera over-exposure warning

The dilemma, challenge and paradox of exposure A tutorial to explain technically correct exposure (i.e., matching the range of the scene to the sensor) and perceptually correct exposure (i.e., when a photo looks "normal".) and how they relate to each other.

Four Light Studio Lighting Exercise A tutorial to explain the role of the four lights used in a conventional portrait scenario and how they work to fit the range of the scene to the sensor.

Using Flash Outdoors Explains the overlapping roles of ambient and flash outdoors.

From Clueless to Competent A tutorial to give a clueless beginner to lighting a technically sound baseline for photographing people.

Portraits by Window Light Diagrams showing set-up for short lit full-face, oblique, and profile views by window light. Used in conjunction with the Clueless to Competent tutorial for those who don't yet own studio lighting gear.

The Role of Fill The character of lighting is controlled with the tone of the shadows and they are controlled with fill. The type of fill and where it is placed relative to the face of a subject has a significant impact on the appearance of the highlights and shadows but is one of the most misunderstood aspects of studio lighting.

Butterfly Lighting Variables Explains all the variables which will affect the appearance of the butterfly lighting pattern - when key light is aligned with the center line of the nose.

Analyzing Faces A portrait photographer needs to understand faces the way a sculptor does; in three dimensions. The first vital step, before the lighting lights are turned on is to find the most flattering camera angle and distance.

Poses, Noses and Ears The eyes and mouth convey the mood of the subject. The nose and ears distract attention from them. Here I discuss strategies for minimizing the distraction.

Mirror vs. Camera This self-portrait exercise shows how mirroring the two sides of a face can help reveal asymmetry and which is a person's "best" side.

Backgrounds and Clothing for Portraits Examines factors which influence the choice of background for a portrait. Key light and fill reveals the face but it is the contrast of the face with the clothing and background which draws the eye of the viewer to it.

Lighting a White Background Perceptually Making a background white without "nuking" it and other common sense technical considerations.

Photographing Groups The goals for photographing groups are different from those of a solo portrait and so are the technical challenges. This PDF format tutorial provides some effective strategies. Added on 12-16-2006

Lighting Furry Critters Lighting fur requires different strategies than lighting smooth skin.

Photographing Paintings Suggestions for copying artwork based on several years spend doing it for a living at National Geographic in the mid-1970s

Photographing Furniture Discusses the perceptual cause and effect of creating the illusion of 3D shape on reflective objects. It shows a minimalist approach for shooting furniture with only two lights, but the concepts also applies to lighting vehicles, jewelry and other reflective objects.

The Zeltsman/Zucker "Feet-Up" Posing Technique Joe Zeltsman created a very simple posing technique which builds a pose from the feet up.

Posing Hands With Flowers An explanation of how make a bride holding flowers look more graceful and elegant instead of like a batter in the on-deck circle.

Using "Inside-Out" Cropping to isolate the center of interest Inside-Out cropping is a technique I use to remind myself to get past "tunnel vision" on the subject's face when shooting a photo to spot for and eliminate distractions. This tutorials explores composition and explains why the "rule of thirds" works; most of the time.

A Cinematic Approach to Still Photography Move beyond the mind-set of capturing a single photo towards telling more complete visual narratives with an approach borrowed from filmmaking.

The Adams Zone System and Digital Photography I learned photography using Adams' Zone System from his books in the same way he used it. I've found ways to incorporate the vocabulary and process of pre-visualization of scene and outcome in terms of zone placement and how to overcome the limitation of the short digital sensor range by using two flashes to overcome the contrast in outdoor lighting.

The Canon EX Flash System

Overview of the EX Flash System

How and Why I use the EX Flash System without add-on radio triggers.

Debunking the IR Myths There is a lot of mis-information on the net about Canon using IR being a problem. Here are the facts.

TTL, E-TTL and E-TTL-II Explained The evolution of Canon flash metering.

The 580ex FAQ Things the manual does not explain well.

EX Flash Exposure Control How to control Exposure with EX Flash.

Using 2 or 3 Canon flashes A:B, A:B C and non-flashing Master modes.

Canon Ratios Are Backwards If the Group A MASTER is used as fill the Canon ratios wind up being the reverse of H:S convention; more or less.

Using Manual Mode Manual actually offers better control than TTL. This explains why and how to use it.

Fill Flash Test Explains how to obtain correct exposure and extend signaling range outdoors.

High Speed FP Flash Test A test of using High Speed FP mode outdoors with wide aperture.

Hot Shoe Flash Concepts
Hot-shoe flash Primer Explains the function of camera mounted manual, thryistor, and TTL flashes.

When To Use a Flash Offers a simple checklist for deciding when to use ambient light, flash or a combination of both.

Modifying Hot Shoe Flash Effectively An explanation of how hot shoe modifiers work and the benefits of flash brackets and dual-flash lighting.

Fill Flash Concepts How to use fill flash and sunlight to create visually effective low- and high-key backgrounds outdoors utilizing God's own hair light.

Sync Limit Explains why shutter speed is limited when using conventional flash and how high speed sync and hypersync work to overcome that limit.

Do It Yourself
Building a DIY diffuser for hot shoe flash There are dozens of flash modifiers on the market. You can build one which is better than nearly all of them in about 30 minutes with about $2 worth of materials. (Revised Jan 2010)

A Macro Diffuser I used the same concepts for natural lighting large subjects when creating a diffuser to dabble with macro.

Painting a DIY Background... or as I fondly remember it "Channeling Jackson Pollack and becoming one with the paint." )

Metering and Interpreting the Histogram
Metering 101 Metering exposure is really no more complicated than driving using the speedometer and keeping a eye on the side of the road for the cop with the radar.

Lighting Ratios and Incident Metering Demystified Explains the difference between incident and reflected ratios and how to set ratios with a Sekonic L-358 exposure meter.

Compensating a Spot Meter How to adjust a hand held spot meter to read exposure directly off the highlights.

Is a Hand Held Spot Meter Really Necessary? It was for using the Zone System with film, but not for digital. But if you own or want one I reveal the simplest way to use it with a digital camera.

Using the Camera Overexposure Warning Getting perfectly exposed highlights in clothing and skin is as simple as throwing in the towel. The best measure of exposure is the last shot taken and using a white towel as a test target will allow your camera playback to tell you when and exactly where over-exposure and loss of detail is occurring.

Interpreting a Histogram How to evaluate a camera histogram and calibrate your brain to understand what it is telling you.

The White Towel Method for Perfect Exposure without a Flash Meter An explanation of how to set exposure and ratios using a white towel and the camera over-exposure warning

Tips on Camera Technique
Understanding Digital Color Digital cameras see the world in only three colors: red, green and blue. To record the color accurately the balance of those three colors must be set to match the color of the light.

How to use a Gray Card A gray card is the most valuable tool a digital photographer can own and the only way to independently evaluate color.

How to Hold a Camera Camera shake is the number one cause of unsharp photos. Here I share the technique I use.

Panning to blur the background This is an ambient light technique used to create an illusion of motion which isn't fully understood by most.This explains things you might not have considered when panning.

Perspective - Creating or Preventing Distortion Explains how to use camera shooting distance and the relative angle of camera sensor and subject to either prevent abnormal looking distortion of body parts or create it intentionally to meet creative goals

Post Processing Techniques

Pricing and Options

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