7 Useful Suggestions to Boost Interest in Your Stock Photographs

tailstock 7 Useful Suggestions to Boost Interest in Your Stock PhotographsStock photography can be a lucrative business, and it is always an unexpected and a pleasant surprise whenever you make a sale. Every image you take is unique and may at the same time have its good points and flaws. To generate a greater demand for your stock photos, here are a few general tips to get you started:

Edit your submissions – don’t just upload everything you’ve taken pictures of in a whole shoot. Edit and choose the best shots and upload only the ones you think are good enough to use. However, do not overdo it with the post processing since there might be the tendency that it looks unreal or too edited. Do not oversharpen your images and upload the highest resolution your camera can handle. Go over every pixel of your image since stock agency reviewers will certainly be doing that and the slightest appearance of pixelation or sensor dust can be a reason for rejection of your shot.

snailstock 7 Useful Suggestions to Boost Interest in Your Stock PhotographsCommunicate – don’t be afraid to get feedback from the many people who see your work.  Most of the time, you will get valuable input that you can use in your next photo shoot. Remember that any comment is not personal so use other people’s opinions to your advantage.

Observe – learn from other stock photography sites and other photographers on what images attract buyers the most. Notice the foreground and background of print advertisements and consider the material used. A lot of times print media uses stock images for their ads. Knowing what stock photography clients are looking for in quality stock imagery is an advantage. More importantly, always learn to think like a client and know what images are in demand to best cater to the market.

Be inspired – look for inspiration in your work. Study what other material is available so you can familiarize yourself. Notice what a certain image looks like and re-tell the story using your own version or interpretation. Use this to draw inspiration from and start from there. There are thousands of images of paperclips but if you can give it your own creative touch, this can be the extra factor that can set it apart from the rest.

Direct less – when working with models, it’s best to keep them relaxed. You capture the true essence of a person or image when they are at ease and not overly conscious of how they are posing. Explain what you want and need from them and let the story unfold by itself.

doughnutstock 7 Useful Suggestions to Boost Interest in Your Stock PhotographsRead design and photography magazines – use what you see in these magazines as inspiration rather than mimicking styles or other photographers’ work. Learn to develop new styles and techniques that you can use for your own images. This is the best way to learn what other photographers are doing to create business concepts that you can use to your advantage.

Use keywording – choose the correct keywords when labeling your work. Accuracy is an important factor as well as matching as many of the correct keywords to fit your image to get the largest possible audience. Avoid using keywords that have no relevance to your image even if these are the most often used, with the thought of adding traffic to your portfolio. It will only irk prospective buyers and will do nothing good for your chances of getting your images sold. 

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How to Photograph Smoke

If you type ‘smoke photos’ in online search engines, you’ll come up with millions of photographs of smoke. There seems to be something fundamentally appealing about them, from their ethereal wispiness to the various ways they curl and curve in the air. They can appear as abstract shapes or in relation to another object. Just like all images beautiful and seemingly simple, photographing smoke takes some preparation.

You’ll need a few things to get your smoke shot:

smoke11 How to Photograph SmokeIncense sticks – they give off a beautiful gray smoke, they smell good and they are easy to control. They also have a small burning area so the smoke is concentrated as it wafts from the stick. A bigger burning area would mean less defined smoke curls. You can use other smoke sources but just stay away from open flame since it will cause hot air to rise and disturb those smoke shapes. Plus, there’s less chances you will burn the house down while playing with fire.

Black backdrop – since smoke is grayish and transparent, the background has to look uncluttered and dark to fully show it off. You can use a black cloth (velvet is advised since it does not reflect light) or black cardboard. If you have neither, try shooting at night but make sure there are no nearby objects that might become illuminated by the flash.

Flash – an external and portable light source is best since you will be positioning it to light up the smoke. The camera’s built-in flash will illuminate the smoke straight on but that might not be the best angle since it can also light up the background. The stronger the light, the better. You will be using a small aperture for a greater depth of field, a low ISO to make the smoke looking as fine and smooth as possible and a fast shutter speed (1/250 at least) to freeze the rising plumes of smoke. Since the exposure settings will allow very little light to get through to the sensor, this is the reason why you will have to compensate with the strength of the flash.

smoke22 How to Photograph SmokePosition the light source to the side or almost to the back of where your smoke will be. Take care not to shine the light on your lens or on the background. Smoke usually rises straight up in a line and to break this by forming curls or other shapes, you can try wafting the air (a hand fan, a piece of paper or even just your hand will do).  Another thing to remember is to have good ventilation in the room. The air will sooner or later start to thicken with smoke, and not only will this be bad for your health but also for the shot since it can lessen the contrast and definition of your smoke pattern.

When you’re done taking pictures, you can post process them and make them look even more striking. One way is to invert the image which will make the background white instead of black. Another is to change the hue and saturation of the smoke. Still another, if your photo editing savvy, is to colorize only certain parts of the smoke and make it look multi-colored.

Creating good smoke shots take lots of practice and patience but the results are often very rewarding and worth the effort. 

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Capturing Extremes in Tone: High Key and Low Key

The overall tone of an image, can have three keys, namely: low key, middle key and high key.   Usually we try to have adequate lighting in our images, with a balanced tone and this would be called ‘middle key’. However, there are two lighting styles which deviate from the norm because they use the extremes of the tonal range to present the image. In this two part article, I will be expounding on high key and low key, two techniques which can make quite an impact in your shots.

highkey Capturing Extremes in Tone: High Key and Low KeyAlthough there should be hardly any contrast or shadows,  good high key images are those where the white areas still show detail instead of being blown out. The background and the subject itself are usually light colored or white. Since the exposure values are high, you have to be careful not to overexpose the shot. High key shots do not necessarily mean overexposed shots. In fact, careful consideration is taken when adjusting the exposure settings and the subject should be evenly lit.

A bright white background is ideal so for studio lighting, prop up a seamless white sheet of cloth or paper against the wall (unless your wall is already white). To make the background appear bright and remove shadows as well, you would need to light it up. Usually, two light sources aimed at the background, one on each side but behind the subject, will be enough to keep the background white, bright and shadow free. To light up the subject itself, you would need a key light (the main light source) placed off to one side (not straight on) and around 5 feet away. A fill light or a reflector would be found on the other side to keep the dark spots to a minimum.

High key shots do not have to be taken purely indoors. This shot of the flower was taken out in the garden, held up near a whitewashed wall and I just used sunlight as my light source. Just remember when taking shots in bright sunlight to use your camera’s histogram to check on the exposure since your eyes might be affected by the sun’s glare.

Aside from the bright, light colored tones, a high key image is known for the cheerful and joyous mood it can evoke. A bright, light colored image has the effect of making one feel happy and this is one great reason why we should all take high key images from time to time. 

Now we’ll focus on the other end of the spectrum which is low key. One can say low key lighting is the opposite of high key. Here the image is mostly in shadow, usually a dark colored subject set against a dark or black background. The mood is also very different. It is much more somber, mysterious, and dramatic.

A low key image may be easier to create than high key since usually only one light source is needed. The subject is easier to light and underexposure or too much contrast can easily be fixed with reflectors or just by adjusting the camera settings.

match Capturing Extremes in Tone: High Key and Low KeySidelighting is one of the best ways to light up the subject in a low key shot. This position of the light allows one to capture the textures and fine details of the subject without blowing them out. It also prevents the subject from casting a shadow in the background, which is what would most likely happen if the light was directly in front. Another great way to light up the subject is by backlighting. By placing the light source directly behind your subject, the light can bleed and shine on the subject’s edges, causing a rim light. This can appear very dramatic, especially when the edges are highly detailed or have an interesting shape.

As with high key images, low key lighting needs to have proper exposure. It is easy for a shot to become underexposed since both the subject and background are dark. Move your light source around, place it closer or further away from the subject, experiment with various light intensities and reflectors. A tripod would come in handy since this is a low light situation and there is a good risk of blurriness.

One thing to have in a low key shot is a dark or black background. In studio shots, such as for still life or portraiture, a black cloth will do. Now some cloths are reflective and shiny. If you can, invest in a few yards of black velvet since it seems to suck in the light instead of bouncing it back. There are times when you don’t need a physical backdrop, just the convenient darkness of night. You can get a black background by lighting just the subject and making sure all other objects in the room are too far away to be illuminated. 

Your low key image does not necessarily have to be indoors in a studio setting. An image of an empty bench at night time under a lone street lamp can be considered low key. To add to the dramatic atmosphere of the image, find a good choice of subject that matches the mood. Perhaps a dramatic pose from a human model, or an ominous scene, or an object with a strange and fascinating shape.  There are lots of ways to be creative with low key lighting. 

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Understanding the Various Camera Lens Filters

A camera lens filter is an accessory that allows photographers to have more control over the images they capture. These filters can either be round or square in shape, made of glass or plastic, and can either be screwed or clipped in place in front of the lens. Although, filter effects can be copied in common editing software techniques, actual filters will give much better results and some are very difficult to reproduce. Here are some popular filter types with their various uses and advantages that can help you create better images.

Filter Types:

filter2 Understanding the Various Camera Lens FiltersLinear and circular polarizers – these filters reduce glare and boost saturation. Usually used in landscape photography where skies, greenery, and water are the main subjects.

Neutral Density (ND) filters – this is often colorless or gray in shade and modifies the intensity of all wavelengths or colors of light in equal measure, while leaving the color hues intact. With an ND filter, you have more options to play with the exposure settings. For example, if you want to have a motion blur effect of a waterfall and there is bright sunlight, you can use this filter instead of decreasing aperture size (to lessen the amount of light entering the sensor). This means you do not have to sacrifice depth of field to capture the image.

Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filters – this is great for lessening the possibility of vignetting and helps control light gradients. This kind of filter is divided into a darker side and a lighter side and the division in the middle, which blends these two shades, varies from soft to hard. This is often used for landscapes that show a dramatic change in lighting, such as a bright sky above a dark row of trees.

filter3 Understanding the Various Camera Lens FiltersUV/Haze – a very useful all-around filter and protects the lens as well. This was often used with film cameras to cut the atmospheric haze that could be captured in the image. Since digital cameras are much less sensitive to UV rays, this filter serves the purpose of general protection of the lens.

Cooling/Warming filters – these filters are used to alter the white balance of the scene. They have cool or warm colored tints. Ideal for underwater images, landscape shots and images that make use of special lighting.

filter7 polar1 Understanding the Various Camera Lens FiltersPolarizers or polarizing filter – this enhances landscape images by cutting down on the intensity of reflected light that goes through to the camera’s sensor. Much like polarized sunglasses, it makes the sky and water seem a deeper blue, and makes the trees and other plants, and even rocks a more vibrant color saturation that increases the visual appeal of images.. It reduces glare and reflections from water and other reflective surfaces as well as decreases the contrasts between the skies and the ground.

As advantageous as polarizing filters can be, be careful because it can also greatly diminish the amount of light that reaches your camera’s sensor by at least 2 to3 f-stops, which is about ¼ to 1/8 amount of light. You might need to compensate for this by using a slower shutter speed or using a bigger lens opening.  Moreover, using polarizers in wide angled lenses may create unbalanced or skies that look visibly darker than usual.

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A Flavorful Guide to Food Photography

It is a common fact that we eat with our eyes as well as our mouth. Food, just like the air we breathe, is essential to our survival. What better way to enjoy life than by relishing the sight of food first and foremost, followed by the taste. This brings us to conclude that food establishments and food companies greatly demand food photographs that can cause the viewer’s mouth to water and the stomach to rumble in anticipation of some gustatory delights. This makes it a lucrative profession and a fulfilling hobby, literally and figuratively speaking.

choclitcopyright A Flavorful Guide to Food PhotographyFor professional photographers, food photography is a section of still life photography for commercial use. Its main purpose is to generate eye-catching pictures of food to be used in menus, advertisements, cookbooks, or product packaging. There are usually many people involved in taking professional food shots; from an art director, to a photographer, to a food and prop stylist.

The predominant trend in commercial food photography is to capture the essence of food at its simplest and most natural state with the use of minimal props. This would require one to be creative such as using selective focusing, close-up shots and the use of perspective.  These techniques would coincide with the growing demand in professional cooking by making the food more visually enticing. 

Purchase the food and ingredients if you are preparing it yourself.  If not, make sure that the already cooked food still looks fresh and appetizing.  Only the most visually flawless food creations are acceptable.  Make sure that you have plenty of it for back-up in case your subject wilts, such as vegetables.  All these have to be looked into meticulously, and when it comes to buying the ingredients, you have to choose the freshest looking food items.

To achieve the best results, the shoot should be in a studio where you can control the lighting conditions.  The setup should be painstakingly prepared to show off the food in the most striking way without any unnecessary objects distracting the viewer. The texture, lighting and color of the background should be chosen to effectively showcase your subject and to add to its full visual impact. So much so that by just looking at the end result will cause your mouth to water.

7 tips on how to photograph food:

1.      Use adequate light – Just like any still life subject, food must be well lit to get the desired effect. No matter how well the chef cooked the food, or how artistically prepared it looks, it will look drab and uninteresting without adequate lighting.  Natural indirect light is a great source of light when it comes to photographing food. It evenly lights up the subject in a very attractive way. The best place to capture this is by positioning your subject by a window where there is an abundance source of natural light.  Studio lighting, on the other hand, offers you complete control over how the food will be illuminated.

veggies3copyright A Flavorful Guide to Food Photography

2.      Enhance it – To keep the look of freshly cooked food, such as a glistening effect, always have vegetable oil ready.  Just brush it over the food to keep it looking succulent even if it has been lying there for hours. Spray misty water on fruit and vegetables to create condensation. The shinier they are, the fresher they seem and the more attractive they become.

3.      Use props – How your food is prepared on a plate is just as important as how you capture it in a photograph. Everything involved in the process of getting the perfect shot includes the choice on how the food is arranged on the plate or bowl, as well as how the table is set.  These are all secondary to the food itself but they still play a vital part in enhancing the total visual impact.  Avoid clutter at all cost since showing many things can be distracting.  You can add one or two components such as a glass, a spoon, a flower or a table napkin.  These can be placed in secondary positions in the frame. The attention of the viewer should first be drawn to the subject and not the extra elements that are included in the setup.

4.      Shoot fast – Unlike other inanimate objects, food will not retain its freshness or allure for long. Time is of the essence when capturing the most tantalizing shot. You have to be able to take pictures quickly after it has been cooked and before it wilts, changes color, melts or collapses. This would require tedious preparations and advanced knowledge in what your final outcome should be before you place your food under the bright light. A common approach to effectively maximize the freshness of food is to have everything ready by using similar props to get the lighting and exposure right.  When everything is in order, all you need to do is to swap the props with real food and you can start shooting immediately with the proper settings.

5.      Get down low – A common oversight among many who attempt to take good photographs of food is taking shots that look down on a plate from directly up above. This can work in some instances but most of the time you can capture a better shot by changing your camera viewpoint and angle. By going down close to plate level or slightly above it, the food appears closer and more enticing to the viewer, who might be feel the urge to reach out and grab a bite.

macarooncopyright A Flavorful Guide to Food Photography6.      Use macro – another method to effectively highlight the different elements of the dish is to focus on just one part of it. By going very close to the food, your camera can show all the details of the delicious ingredients that can be overlooked in a shot taken farther back. Shooting macro will present textures that can add dimension to the image, such as the golden stickiness of honey or the crystalline formations of sugar.

7.      Use steam – Steam rising off your food always indicates it has just been cooked. Hot food is always an attraction when stimulating one’s appetite. Therefore, it is always a desired effect in almost every food image.  This can be the most difficult to achieve naturally because steam only lasts a few seconds before dissipating. One way to capture it is to create artificial steam. This can be done by microwaving cotton balls soaked in water and placing them behind your subject. Others are inventive and use cigarette smoke but the smell can be unpleasant. Use a dark background along with backlighting to make steam more visible. Lastly, steam can be added in post-processing with photo editing software.

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Fantastic Tips on How to Photograph Children

Taking photographs of children can either be great fun or a huge challenge. Some children enjoy posing for the camera and while others are camera shy or too hyperactive to sit still for the shot. Here are some useful tips you can use to get that perfect shot even with the most reluctant child:

children baby Fantastic Tips on How to Photograph Children

Go closer – instead of taking a whole body shot, try moving up close and filling the frame. By isolating a portion of your subject, such as the face or the hands, more details can be seen. This is also great for babies where close up shots plus diffused lighting would be ideal to show their tiny features. 

Take advantage of their expressiveness – Children can be very expressive with their chian by dhindo copy Fantastic Tips on How to Photograph Childrenemotions since they have not yet learned to rein their feelings. This trait of vulnerability is also what makes them enchanting. Capture their expressions quickly since they can go from being silly to angry to pensive in the space of a few seconds. 

Add a prop – an object such as a security blanket can greatly improve the mood of a child. Including their favorite teddy bear or pet puppy in the shot can make them more at ease and give them something to focus on as well.

chiara by dhindo copy Fantastic Tips on How to Photograph Children

Shoot them in action – most children can’t seem to stop moving. They are so full of exuberance and are always running and playing games. Taking a photo of them at play instead of in a formal pose will portray them in a more natural and relaxed manner. Also, a setting such as a playground or the garden will provide a great background. A fast shutter speed is needed to freeze them in action but a slower shutter speed can catch lines of movement and make the image dynamic. You can play around with panning, zoom blur or motion blur to further spice up the shot.

Patience is a virtue – if you have a child, or remember what it was like to have been one, then you know how short children’s attention spans can be. They are always curious and the slightest interesting thing can catch their attention and they then forget all the instructions you’ve given them to pose the way you want them to. Don’t try to force them to pose since you might get them to sit still but you will also receive a glare that will not be pleasant to capture. Instead, make it a fun shoot by talking about their interests and allowing them to explore the surroundings. Show them the shots you’ve taken of them and they’ll probably direct themselves and think of various creative ways to pose for you.

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Quick Skin Retouching, Part 2: Skin Smoothing Using Gaussian Blur

If you want to smoothen skin in a jiffy in Photoshop, the Gaussian Blur tool is one way to do it. With this method, we will be blurring out the face and masking the sections that are not skin. It might come out a little unrealistic, however, since the result might be a porcelain effect. This is great if used for quick retouching of faces that do not take up a large part of the image. Or if you are deliberately going for the porcelain look!

Before you begin smoothing skin, remove any blemishes first. This is part 2 of Quick Skin Retouching and you can learn how to do blemish removal in Part 1. For the purposes of this tutorial, we will be using the same image sample after the discolorations have been removed. 

Step 1:

Open your image and create a new layer just so we don’t touch the opened image. 

Step 2:

Make a copy of the face by drawing a selection with the Lasso Tool. Keep the Shift key pressed to add to the selected area or hold down the Alt key to subtract from the selection.

Step 3:

Next, we will soften the edges of the selection we made, as well as smooth the transition between the selected and non-selected area. This is called Feathering, and it will help blend the selected face copy and the layer beneath it. Go to Select > Feather and input 20px from the popup window that will appear.

gausfeather Quick Skin Retouching, Part 2: Skin Smoothing Using Gaussian Blur

Step 4:

Go to Edit > Copy Merged (keyboard shortcut is Shift+Ctrl+C) and this will make a copy of the image, not just a layer. Go back to Edit and select Paste (Shift+Ctrl+V) and a new layer will automatically be created and placed on top of the one you have been using. This is the copy layer that we will be blurring.

Step 5:

Select Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and choose a radius that will blur out the face to the point where the features are just recognizable. For this I used a radius of 15px.

gausblur Quick Skin Retouching, Part 2: Skin Smoothing Using Gaussian Blur

Step 6:

Now you will have what looks like a very blurry face. We will need to make certain details reappear such as the eyebrows, eyes, nose and mouth. Click on the Add Layer Mask button at the bottom of the Layers Palette and then click on the Brush tool. Make the Opacity 100% and the Flow 20% so you can be more precise when you paint. Keep the foreground color black in order to hide the layer (white as foreground would show the underlying layer). With the brush, paint back the features. Use a wider brush diameter with a low opacity over areas that also have detail, such as the curve of the chin or the section above the upper lip, in order to show more facial contours. Remember to paint over the edges of the face as well to make the masking more seamless. 

gausmask Quick Skin Retouching, Part 2: Skin Smoothing Using Gaussian Blur

Step 7:

After masking to reveal the key features, you can reduce the strength of the blur by decreasing Opacity or Fill of the layer. For this I decreased the Fill to 35%. Here is a comparison after fading the Gaussian Blur effect:

The result is smooth looking skin. 

gauscomp Quick Skin Retouching, Part 2: Skin Smoothing Using Gaussian Blur

If the skin appears too artificial, you can add some texture by using the Add Noise filter. Since we don’t want to apply noise to the entire image, we will limit it only to the selected face area. A simple way to do this is to first use the Lock Transparency option in the Layers Palette. What happens is the transparent portions in the blurry face layer will remain unaffected after applying the Noise filter. Select Filter > Noise > Add Noise, and choose a small amount such as 2%. Tick the Monochromatic checkbox to make black and white noise (which gives a better textured effect) and select the Uniform option to make it more even.

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Quick Skin Retouching, Part 1: Removing Blemishes

When shooting photographs that show off skin, we are often quite particular with how it looks, whether it is smooth, wrinkled, or blemish free. Skin texture and marks provide character in a photo but sometimes, presenting smooth clear skin is preferable or even necessary. 

Keep in mind that the trick to good skin retouching is knowing when to stop. It is easy to go overboard to the point that the skin starts to look like plastic and become unrealistic. Also, be careful with removing ‘blemishes’ because some may be considered ‘beauty marks’ and the model might want to keep them. It is always good to know what the intent is behind the skin retouching since this will affect your editing choices. Post processing a person’s skin for a fashion ad will be different from editing a friend’s skin just to make it appear clearer. 

In this 2-part article, we will cover the basic techniques of skin retouching, mainly blemish removal and skin smoothing.

Before we start with the skin smoothing, we must first get rid of blemishes. As mentioned earlier, we must be careful with what we remove because certain imperfections that the person was born with might be considered part of the person’s character and charm. A good rule of thumb is to remove the temporary blemishes such as pimples and blackheads and to lessen the impact of more permanent ones such as wrinkles and moles.

Look at your image and identify the blemishes you want to remove. In this sample, we will be removing the dark spots under the eyes, on the chin and a few on the cheeks. 

faceorig Quick Skin Retouching, Part 1: Removing Blemishes

There are two common Photoshop tools that we can use to remove blemishes and these are the Healing tool and the Clone Stamp tool. We can do a whole lot of retouching just with these two tools. 

Healing Brush tool – copies the pixels from the target area and tries to adapt them to fit the area that you brushed. 

Create a new layer from the opened image by clicking on the paper icon at the bottom of the Layers Palette then select the Healing Brush from the Tools Palette. If you got the Spot Healing Brush, just right click and change it to Healing Brush instead. Next, change the Brush size to a diameter that is around the size as the dark spot or a small and controllable size if you are healing an area. To change the diameter, click the dropdown list next to the Brush shape and select the desired diameter. You can also right-click anywhere in the image area to make the dropdown list appear. By ticking the ‘Sample All Layers’ option on the top toolbar, you can make edits on the layer without affecting the original layer underneath.

faceheal Quick Skin Retouching, Part 1: Removing Blemishes

The Healing tool is ideal for large areas such as the dark spot beneath her right eye. Select a source near the blemish, something similar to the color, skin tone, lighting and texture to paste over the area you want to fix. When healing, try varying your brushstrokes. Sometimes, you get a better result by going over the area with short clicks, rather than dragging the brush like a stroke. If you do make a mistake, just click on Edit > Undo. You can also use the Spot Healing tool for smaller areas such as pimples or large pores. Unlike the Healing Tool, the Spot Healing tool does not require you to select a target area. Instead it makes use of the adjacent area around the brushstroke as the source.

Healing tool is good for keeping the original skin texture the same since it gets the information from the area around the brush. However, if the nearby area has both light and dark pixels, this tool can pick up on those and the result might look like a smear.

You can alternate between the Healing tool and the Clone Stamp tool, whichever gives a better result.

Clone Stamp tool – copies the pixels of an area that you targeted. You can set the source area just once and as you move the tool, the source will also move in tandem. When using the Clone Stamp tool (found below the Healing tool), press Alt-click on the target source and a cross will appear in the brush icon to indicate that it is the targeted area. Always make it a point of defining the appropriate source since human skin has various textures and using the wrong area as a source can make your retouching unpleasantly obvious. Next, paint over the blemish or simply click on it and the source will be pasted or copied over it, in effect, erasing the small imperfection. Keep an eye on the source area since this will change as you move the tool around. You might have to select new areas once in a while to keep the editing realistic and seamless. 

Here is a comparison of the results of a quick five minutes of removing blemishes:

facecomp Quick Skin Retouching, Part 1: Removing Blemishes

Stay tuned for part 2 which will show you how to smoothen skin and minimize wrinkles!

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Tips on How to Shoot Stunning New Year’s Eve Photos

New Year’s Eve is a very special occasion because it marks the end of the old year and the birth of a new one. During this night, people gather to celebrate and mark the moment. Some have dinner with the family while others party with friends. Firework displays decorate the sky and the countdown to the new year is anticipated. This is one occasion that is celebrated by almost every country in the world and the global excitement is contagious, and recorded by TV and radio programs in local and cable channels. 

newyear3 Tips on How to Shoot Stunning New Year’s Eve PhotosFor both amateur and professional photographers, New Year’s Eve is one night when picture taking is a must. There are lots of photo opportunities presented since the event has great visual appeal. Here are several ways to capture outstanding New Year’s Eve images:

Take pictures of the fireworks – New Year’s Eve is automatically associated with fireworks. Whether you are watching a big pyro production by professionals or your children playing with sparklers in the garden, get a lot of shots with fireworks since they are truly gorgeous subjects to shoot. To shoot fireworks, the shutter needs to be left open for at least a few seconds to let in sufficient light. Take some test shots first so you can properly adjust the exposure settings for the low-light scenario. More advanced cameras  will have options for manual exposure control but if you have a regular point and shoot, use the ‘fireworks’ mode, with is a standard camera preset. However, do not expect too much from that since it still might not be enough to capture far-off explosions. A tripod is also needed to keep the camera steady so it can capture clean and defined light streaks. Read here for more tips on shooting fireworks. 

newyear2 Tips on How to Shoot Stunning New Year’s Eve PhotosPlay with camera angles – aside from the usual angle which is shooting at eye level, experiment with other kinds such as a low viewpoint with the lens tilted upwards or a bird’s eye view from the top of the stairs or a second storey building.  When taking photographs at New Year’s Eve parties or other instances when there are crowds, a simple change of camera angle also means a change of perspective which can greatly improve an ordinary composition. For instance, for group shots you can shoot from a higher level to include everyone in the frame instead of stepping back as far as you can (which can be a challenge in small interiors).

Protect your gear – this one isn’t much about how to take a shot but is still a very important point to remember in an occasion such as this. You will most likely be around crowds at one point or other during New Year’s Eve and also in a low-light situation. This scenario is rife for accidents waiting to happen if you are not careful, such as someone bumping into you and spilling their drink on your beloved camera. Hold your camera with two hands when taking pictures and stay away from the rowdier areas where inebriated revelers might accidentally trip on you or your gear. Wear your camera strap around your neck or twined around your wrist (if you’re using a point and shoot) to lessen the risk of the camera dropping to the floor in the event that it slips from your hands. 

newyear1 Tips on How to Shoot Stunning New Year’s Eve PhotosCapture the mood – this event is always considered to be fun-filled, exciting, loud and full of laughter. Try to visually capture the atmosphere by shooting people in the midst of some activity, use the vivid colors of decorations as well as available or ambient light to further add to the mood. There is another side to New Year’s Eve, however. Although it is usually noisy and full of light spectacles, people also have quiet moments within all that uproar. Aside from shooting fireworks, also shoot the people watching them. Couples hugging each other, children looking up at the sky in silent awe, solitary people who stand in the corner away from the crowd, these moments evoke strong emotional appeal that are well worth recording in a photograph. 

Like other holiday shoots, it is easy to overlook having yourself photographed. Remember to include yourself in some shots by asking someone to take your picture or use your tripod and timer instead. Taking photos during New Year’s Eve can be a very rewarding experience with the amount of wonderful photos you will have by the end of the night. 

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Correcting Unwanted Color Casts in Post Processing

Have you ever seen your images awash in a hue of yellow, green or blue which didn’t seem to be there when you took the shot? Light sources give off various cool or warm color hues and if your camera’s white balance feature makes an incorrect adjustment to neutralize these colors, then they can be very visible in your shots. This tutorial will show you how to correct unwanted color casts in the post processing stage.

Keep in mind that this method is not the only way to fix images with color casts, and as with all photo editing techniques, it will be effective for some images but be less successful with others depending on the nature of the color cast.

The photo we will be using is that of Mary, the Chihuahua. Now Mary is warming herself in the morning sunlight and there is an obvious yellow cast to this shot, most evident in the areas of her fur that should be white.

This is the original shot and by the end of this tutorial, you can see a side by side comparison after we get rid of the yellow color cast. . The photo editing program used is Photoshop CS2. 

colorcastbefore Correcting Unwanted Color Casts in Post Processing

Step 1: 

Open your image in Photoshop and create a duplicate layer. Next, go to Image > Adjustments > Threshold and a dialog box will appear showing the threshold level. Move the slider all the way to the left until a little patch of black is left. This patch signifies that it is the blackest section in the image. Since this photo has a lot of black areas, there are big black patches even though the slider has been moved all the way to the left of the graph. 

Step 2:

Hover your cursor over a black patch, which has now turned into an eyedropper tool, press and hold the Shift key and select a black patch with the eyedropper. A marker will appear with the number 1. It would look like this:

colorcastblkthres Correcting Unwanted Color Casts in Post Processing

Step 3:

Next, move the threshold slider tool all the way to the right and the image preview will now show you the areas that are the lightest or whitest in color. Pick a white patch that is around 7 pixels wide, and again press and hold the Shift key then mark the white spot with the eyedropper. The new marker will be numbered ‘2’. 

Press Cancel, not OK, when you’re done placing these two markers.

colorcastwhitethres Correcting Unwanted Color Casts in Post Processing

Step 4:

We’re going to open a different dialog box now. Go to Image > Adjustments > Curves to tweak some of the Curves settings. It’s ideal to set the white point first. Double click the white eyedropper tool on the right and the color picker box will pop up. Change the RGB values to 240 to avoid over whitening. 

colorcastrgb Correcting Unwanted Color Casts in Post Processing

Next, click (just once) on the black eyedropper tool on the left and select the first marker you placed when you were setting the threshold. Then click the white eyedropper tool and select the second marker. The middle eyedropper tool sets the gray point. Choose this last and select a medium gray color in the image. If you’re not sure of your choice, double click on the eyedropper to pull up the color picker box. While keeping the left mouse button pressed, move the eyedropper tool around the image while watching the RGB values. The goal is to look for values that are equal to or as near to each other as possible since the same RGB values equal gray. When you’ve made your selection, press OK. 

colorcastgray Correcting Unwanted Color Casts in Post Processing

Step 5: 

Here’s a screenshot of the eyedropper tools and the corresponding markers selected. For the gray point, the area chosen was the gray spot above Mary’s eye. When you’re all finished, press OK. 

colorcastcurvesmarkers Correcting Unwanted Color Casts in Post Processing

This is a comparison between the original photo and after the yellow color cast disappeared. That’s a pretty big change in less than 4 minutes’ work, right? Now the areas of Mary's fur that should be white have been restored. After practicing these steps a few times, you can remove unwanted color casts in no time. 

colorcastcomp Correcting Unwanted Color Casts in Post Processing

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