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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Behind the scenes Kristin and Joe Part I

If you are looking for the photos from Joe and Kristin's shoot, please see the May 18 post.

When we began our shoot we headed down to the river and decided to work our way back towards their house.  The sun was starting to drop towards the horizon but was still very harsh and bright.  I took the opportunity to use my reflector and see what it could do to fill in the shadows vs my available light and reflective umbrella I had with me.

Now first off, I knew that with the light I had, I wanted their faces nicely lit and exposed properly.  The problem with turning their faces into the sun and adjusting for exposure is that people tend to really squint and it is hard to look into the sun.  I also knew that if I turned their backs to the sun, then the scene would be back lit and they would either become silhouettes or I would have to blow out the whole background which means overexposing until its white with no detail.  

The solution is to turn them slightly, using the sun as a main light, and 'rim' lighting the subjects along their hair, shoulder, and one side of their bodies.  I still had the problem of filling in some light because their faces were in complete shadow.  The bottom picture above shows the best available shot I could get using only the available light and turning them sideways from the sun.  I also forgot to mention that the river was reflecting a lot of the light into them as well!  In this third shot I had to immediately edit the exposure of their skin in LR.  This began to overexpose the background and really blow out the highlight scene on Joe's face.  Since I work in RAW I was able to use my recovery slider to help reduce the amount of lost detail and try and hang on to anything I had.  Unfortunately, using too much recovery makes your photo look flat and muddy.  To compensate, I had to boost the black more than I normally would to get some contrast back and reduce that flat look.  Other than those basic adjustments (and sharpening / vignette) I didn't touch the photo.  The colors are all straight from the camera.  TECH INFO: 1/200th F5.0 ISO 100 @52mm

The middle photo is an example of using a Gold reflector.  Why Gold?  It is like using an orange gel on your flash.  It boosts warm colors which look nice on skin.  Gold reflectors tend to add a bit too much warmth though.  Thankfully, in post production, I can reduce the amount of warmth in the photo to correct it but this is time consuming and can have global effects over the whole photo.  I tried correcting in LR and a reduction of about 10 points of the orange slider seemed to reduce the golden appearance from the reflector.  However in this case, I found a global adjustment of 10 points of the overall saturation helped.  Using only the orange slider for this picture left too much red in the face and it looked a bit abnormal.   In the setup shots above you can see how far away my wife held the reflector while she blinded Joe and Kristin.  I think in this case, a white reflector would work nice as well and would reduce the amount of light reflected back but you would lose any sunset glow as well.  So... is this photo a success?  Well that depends on your taste I guess.  I was able to reduce my exposure in camera since I had the shadows on their faces filled in which in turn helped me capture a more proper exposure in the background.  Still not perfectly balanced but better.  And finally, I think the gold looks artificial, slightly cheesy, and a bit bright.  But this was an experiment.  In lower light the reflector would probably work better or with a different color.  What do you think?  TECH INFO: 1/320th F5.0 ISO 100 @ 67mm (notice I was able to speed up my aperture because of the increase in light on the subjects.  But if I were to use flash, I would not be able to exceed 1/250th in order to sync with my flash... see below)

I finally opted to using the flash as a main light for this photograph.  I guess I will call it my main light since I was able to adjust for the flash light on their faces, and slightly reduce and underexpose the background to help them stand out a bit.  I had no choice but to keep the highlighted edge from the harsh sun along the left side of the picture.  But used it as best I could to provide some separation and shape.  I set up the reflective umbrella (well, my wife did) as shown in the photo above.  Inside the reflector is silver fabric similar to the reflectors you would use in your cars windshield on  a hot day.  The flash is pointed into the reflector and helps to dissipate and provide a larger light source back on the subjects.  This makes the light a bit more soft leaving less defining shadows and smoothes out skin tones.  Again, I did not do much of any editing in this photo either to really show you the effects of the lighting.  Once you get good lighting I find you don't need much correction anyway.  I left the color balance which seems ok and only boosted the blacks slightly to help add some contrast and dimension.  I should also mention that interestingly when you boost the blacks the color in the photo become slightly saturated.  However I did not compensate for this, correct, or alter the color in any way.  TECH INFO: When I looked up my metadata on this photo I saw that I mistakenly used 1/320th of a second.  What about camera sync?  well.... you can obviously tell that the light from the reflector still hit Joe and Kristin.  In the original photograph, there was a lot of extra space to the left and right of them which was all lit by ambient light.  If I took this same picture against a dark wall at 320th, you would most likely see a shadowy vignette from the shutter closing off and not capturing all of the light.  In this case I got away with it because of the well lit ambient and my tight crop that probably only used 50% of the original photograph.  F4.5 ISO 100 @43mm

Monday, May 18, 2009

Kristin and Joe engagement shoot

Hello again!  

A few weeks ago I did a photo shoot with Kristin and Joe down at their farm near Red deer.  I am going to photograph their wedding in September at the same location we did their engagement portraits.  They live on a farm down by the Red deer river which provided an abundance of locations to shoot right there on their property.  

Click on the photos above to view them larger.  These are 5 of my favorites.

We did the shoot near dusk to take advantage of the warm light and low sun.  My wife Christal assisted me and did some reflector work as well as set up and took down lighting equipment.  Thanks again Christal!  She keeps me on track ;)

All of these photos were done with either one light, a reflector, or ambient light.  Keep your eyes open for shadows to get an idea where the light is coming from.  This week I will do a few posts with the set up shots for this photo shoot.  But for now, if you want to take a look at the rest of the photos CLICK HERE.

Thanks everyone!  Take care and leave feedback if you wish.  


Friday, May 15, 2009

Stenberg Photography's Macro photo-documentation

Wow it has been a while since my last post and I apologize.  I have been very busy taking photos for once instead of editing for hours at the computer.  I completed another engagement session near Red deer for a couple that is getting married this September.  Their photos should be done this week and I expect a lot of great shots to post for everyone to see.  We took photos at their farm complete with horses, cabins, and a barn!  Nothing says Alberta like a farm ;)

I have also been busy taking photos for a company called 20 20 seed labs.  They are a seed testing company that works out of Nisku and tests farmers crops for healthy seeds among other things.  They asked me to obtain a variety of photos for a 20th anniversary calendar which they hope to release and send to their clients this August.  So far I have visited their lab, greenhouse, and even hit the field and saw a seed cleaning plant in operation as well as one of their clients farms who happened to be seeding.  I plan to post numerous times in the future from these days in the field.  Keep checking back.

Today I posted some macro shots I took in their greenhouse which is actually at the University of Alberta.  A few are some general pictures that I took that could be used as material for their calendar as well as other promotional or training material.  And other pictures were taken from a separate assignment.  Some young canola seed still called 'cotyledows' had turned yellow and even purple along the edges.  2020 needed this abnormal growth documented three times during its life cycle.  I have visited twice and will be back again next week to take the final shots.  It is obvious which ones are infected by the discoloration.

Sorry again about the long post.  I hope to get to it a bit quicker next time and will defentily have a great variety of photos to show off for the next while.    Please comment with any questions or comments you may have.


TECH INFO:  I immediately noticed the plants were on tables in the greenhouse that had a ton of natural light pouring in as any greenhouse does.  They also had strong fluorescent lights standing over them that I turned off for the sake of the photos in order to photo document the proper color of the plants.  Fluorescent light will actually look green in your camera if it is set to a daylight color balance.  There is no way to fix a mixture of light color in post production so it is best to correct this prior to shooting.  If I could have "turned off the sun" somehow technically I could have left the fluorescent lights on as the main ambient light and used a green gel over my flash to match the color in order to have continuity of light color to keep things accurate.  This is also especially important when shooting people because their skin will look green.  Yuk!

Now that I had my light all matched up, I pulled out some white board to reflect my flash back into the plants to help fill some shadows beneath the plant.  Not much but just a little was needed to fill in some light.  I set my flash camera left using either a reflective or shoot through umbrella usually set to 1/2 power.

For the picture of the soybean and the water droplets, I used an ISO of 1000 in order to drop my F stop to 13.  I was unable to use my tripod for these pics so I wanted to keep my shutter above 1/100th of a second.  My 100mm Macro lens was used for all of the photos.

for the discolored cotyledows, I used a tripod in order to get the sharpest image possible since the purpose was to photo-document rather than shoot artistically.  I attached my camera and shot almost straight down perpendicular to the floor while the plants were on a table about waist height.  The white and purple close up is a cropped image that represents about 30 -40 % of its original photograph.  I did this to get in closer and increase the size of the plant.  I was able to retain a lot of the sharpness since I used a tripod.  These two photos were shot at 1/5th and 1/10th of a second at F14 ISO 100.  I also opted to use manual focus for all of these shots.

Hint:  When using a tripod, if you do not have a cable or wireless release, you should set your camera with a timer as I do.  I have an option for a two second timer so my hands are free of the shutter button and there is no camera shake.  This is also why it is important to get a good quality tripod because the slightest movements will rid  your pictures of any sharpness especially when shooting macro.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mom's Magazine cover photo shoot - one light

This photo was shot vertical and edited like a magazine cover.  Lots of skin work in PS.  I am just learning how to do this kinda stuff so don't be too hard on me.  It takes a lot of tedious work and time in PS to get it just right and sometimes I feel like I just don't have the patience.  However, things are picking up and getting quicker and I always get excited to play around more once I compare my results to what I had originally.

Here I have posted the original photograph (with small LR edits) along with its PS twin.  See if you can spot all the differences.  I bet my mother would not be too happy with people looking at her before and after pics in detail but she will never know because she doesn't use the computer.  I also don't think she will sue me for obvious reasons... (I hope!)... but ya never know ;)

I took this photo in the middle of the day with the sun beating down hard and harsh from a clear blue sky.  As you can see in the setup shot, my wife Christal is holding a translucent fabric to block the harsh sunlight over my mothers head.  The sun would have been beating down camera left along her hair blowing out any detail.  Unfortunately I deleted the ambient light picture I meant to post along with this series to show you.  Anyways, long story short, the shadows were even more harsh, and her hair was highlighted out and there was too much contrast to get a properly exposed photograph.  I still wanted a strong lit photo like the sun would provide but needed to knock down my shutter speed in order to synch my flash.  The shade from the fabric let's me open up about three stops and reduces contrast.  

My flash was set high and equipped with CTO warming gel and shot with no umbrella or diffusing device as you can see.  It was camera right and set at 1/2 power.  It easily overpowered what was left of the ambient light filling all of its shadows and took the lead role as my main light source creating its own shadows.  This way I was able to recreate the sun without it being too harsh as I described above.  This was good because it keeps the natural feel of an afternoon bright sunny day photograph.  Sure I could have knocked down the flash, and filled it in gently and got a nice glamour style lighting but it would have taken away from what we would like to remember of one of our first warm days this spring.

TECH INFO: 1/200th sec @ F8.0 ISO 100.  24-70mm lens @ 70mm.

PS INFO: after post edit adjusting blacks and a few other very minor things in LR I imported this pic into PS CS3.  I initially removed some blemishes and lines in the face with the patch tool.  Keep in mind I would always use a different layer and use the opacity slider to adjust once complete.  I then desaturated and dodged the teeth and eye whites and saturated the lips and eyes slightly.  I then went into the liquify module and 'squeezed' in the nose and 'bloated' the eyes and lips.  I 'nudged' the sides of the face in ever so slightly as well.  Finally, I went a bit crazy (as they do with magazine covers) on the skin tone.  I applied a blur and erased the blur over the eyes mouth eyebrows and hair around the face.  I then added some selective blur with a soft brush around the outside of the photo with hopes of re-creating some F2.8 style blur that I was unable to achieve in camera because of the lighting.  The blur is still a bit unnatural but adds some artistic qualities.  Wish I had a tilt/shift!  That was pretty much it... oh yeah, I also added a bit of unsharp mask as well.  It seems to really sharpen up images a bit better than LR.  Of course all of these edits are easy to get carried away with especially when you are me.  So always back them off with the opacity and try and under do it.  I personally do it until I start to notice the effect and than back it off some.  This seems like it takes a lot of practice.

Thats all...