Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lanie Kinzie's Canon EF 135mm f/2.8

I haven't posted a lot of client photos lately for good reason - they're Christmas gifts from my clients to their families or spouses who probably look at, or could look at, my blog! So if I post those photos, I could get in big trouble for spoiling the holiday surprise. So being a dedicated blogger, I am using this time to have fun shooting and educating my readers :)

Today I met up with fellow photographer & business owner, Lanie Kinzie of TheCrystalLenz.com. She recently got some new toys, the Canon EOS 5D and the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L lens. Lanie wanted me to share some of my tips & techniques on using the 5D and 24-70 so she can hit the ground running tomorrow when she shoots for Hagerstown Magazine. But that's not all, she happened to have one of her older lens on hand, the Canon 135mm Soft Focus prime lens. The unusual feature of this lens is its softfocus capability. The lens has a ring that allows continuous soft focus settings ranging from locked at 0 (none) to 2 with detentes at settings 1 and 2.

Below are photos of the two lenses we were using today.

Needless to say, I had to mount the Canon EF 135mm on my 5D and give it a try. And for all the Adobe software fans out there, the following photos were post-processed using Adobe Lightroom, and Lightroom ONLY. Adobe Photoshop was not used.

Below are a few photos I took of Jordan cruising the playground.





Here's one I took of Lanie taking a shot of me (she was trying out my 30D w/70-200mm lens)




The background blur, or bokeh, was pretty good for a lens of this value - less than $300


Here I set the lens on Soft Focus setting #1 and added one of Kevin Swan's Lightroom presets.



I used a backlit preset in Lightroom for this image. I was impressed with how sharp the EF 135mm was considering its value. Maybe not as sharp as its more expensive cousin, the EF 135 f/2.0L, but decent enough. In reality, it's really not fair to compare this with any L lens.



I used the Soft Focus setting again



...and again



Overall I was impressed with the performance of this prime lens. You can't go wrong with the value, very light weight, and bokeh. Again, not as sharp as the 135 "L", but I don't think it's fair to compare them anyway. I'm not a fan of the Soft Focus feature, I normally don't have the need for it. If I ever do, I can create it in Photoshop.

Now some fun with the Canon 24-70 :). We both love how cool it is to shoot with a wide angle lens. Lanie is a prime lens user, so operating a zoom ring took her some getting used to, lol. But she loves it! She also loves the back-auto focus button trick I showed her as a Custom Function setting on the 5D. Now she can really aim, focus, and shoot fast!

This is Lanie's shadow of her holding her 5D. I used an old vintage preset in Lightroom for this gritty look.


...showing off her new toy to me

Another happy 5D & 24-70 owner :)




A very fun day we had! Thanks Lanie for coming out to play. Can't wait til next time!


May the force be with you... always :)

One of my clients asked me how well I know the ins & outs of Adobe Photoshop. Well I will say I know it well enough to deliver what my clients want, and I continue to learn more as trends come and go in our industry. My style is usually clean and direct. But I remember way back in the day when I used to experiment with Photoshops layers, blends, and colors. Almost 2 years ago my son & I were having some fun working out our differences with lightsabers, haha. These were taken with an old point and shoot. If you look closely at my "double-bladed" lightsaber, I'm not even holding a toy lightsaber, it's actually the bar from a dumbbell :). Call me a nerd, but I just thought it was so cool to get the lightsaber effect to work in these photos. I learned this trick from an online tutorial. A few of you may have seen this from my personal gallery. If not, enjoy and let me know what you think :)



Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Pictage Professional Print Holiday Sale

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday. Now it's time for some holiday shopping!

I hope everyone has been receiving their 2 for 1 Promotional Print reminders in their email inbox from Pictage. For some of you this may have already expired, for others this could be your last week to take advantage of the 2 for 1 promotion! Don't forget that you and your guests that pre-registered need to redeem your Gift Certificates before the event expires online.

My print sales on Pictage have been rising in popularity. So in the spirit of the festive season, I'm having a holiday sale at Pictage for all client prints! Just go to your Pictage event on the web, and look at the new sale prices. These prices will be good through December 22, 2007.

Know someone who wants a photo session with ADP? Purchase one of my personal Gift Certificates! Email me at images@armindefiesta.com for more information.

Pictage also offers holiday greeting cards, coffee table books, and DVD slideshows. These products and professional prints will make a great gift this season :)

HAPPY SHOPPING!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Jessica & John's Engagement Book Layout

Engagement Guest Books are growing in popularity in the wedding industry. It really adds a nice personal touch that my clients are very excited about. Here's yet another great example designed my by friend & colleague, Grace Chou. Each photo is a full spread (left AND right pages). Again, you'll see the faded white spaces where wedding guests can freely sign their names and even add a comment. It's easy for you to just pick up the book anytime and flip through and enjoy the photos and remember your guests!



Saturday, November 24, 2007

Fun Photos at Night

I had some fun with photography last night. At around 9:00 pm, Nathan & I took his flashlight out to a nearby soccer field to play around with camera settings. Light sources were the full moon and about 2 to 3 streetlights about 50 yards away. I asked him to wield his flashlight in a figure 8 shape, but I guess he got a little excited and just went crazy with circles, haha!

The images were taken with my 5D & 24-70 lens. 8 seconds is pretty long for the shutter to be open so the camera can capture as much light as possible. No wonder Nate is such a blur, lol.

I used a high ISO setting here (more sensitive to light)
Shutter speed: 8 seconds
Aperture: f/4.0
ISO: 1600


Here I used a lesser ISO setting
Shutter speed: 8 seconds
Aperture: f/4.0
ISO: 500


Friday, November 23, 2007

Will Melissa Jill have to find a Black Friday lens sale?!

Yikes, what's David Jay's dad doing to Melissa Jill's beloved Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens?!?! If you want to find out, click on their names to read their blog posts! Melissa looks so "calm" here doesn't she? LOL.



Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving! ... and some Totally Rad Actions

Some wonder if there are tools or presets I use to process my photos. YES, there is! Many photographers use them to streamline the workflow. I use several, but one of my favorite sets is from photographer Doug Boutwell. So I thought I'd share this with everyone who would find this interesting when you have some down time to watch a couple of online videos.
Here is how Doug Boutwell mixes actions from his very own set of Totally Rad Actions (I have these and use 'em too)
What I use to retouch, the ProRetouch action tool... I love this from his action set.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Photo Processing 101

Educating my clients about the value of their photography investment is an ongoing process throughout the whole experience from beginning to end, sometimes beyond that (yes!). I normally don't get into the technical details if they don't ask. But once in a while, some of my clients are more curious than others and ask a lot of great questions about what goes into creating these amazing photos and what sets them apart from your typical WalMart or Target photo session. So I thought it'd be cool to give a little photography 101 for everyone. The topic - IMAGE CAPTURE/POST PROCESSING.

What's image capture & post-processing? Simple, it's the process your image goes through from the start of the photo session, to the digital enhancement process, to the online hosting of their images. These "invisible" steps are crucial to delivering the high quality product my clients expect. I use professional equipment, but these are merely tools. Your final images do not come like that out of the camera, contrary to some popular belief. The RAW images are very nice, but my clients expect more and do know better because they've invested their time and money into my knowledge, experience, and service to ensure the professional quality result that they can brag to their friends about :). This is what sets my work and their cherished images apart from everything else.

To save you from a long drawn out essay on this, I'll write out my process in bullet form, gotta love that, right? And I'll throw in some costs factors as well to give you some idea of the financial investments involved. Here we go...

The following is a high-level overview of my image processing workflow:

  1. Capture images at your photo session using manual exposure mode in which I manually adjust the cameras settings by controlling the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. This will ensure the best exposure possible using available light combined with artificial light as needed. I use Canon's 5D and 30D SLRs. The 5D retails for around $2700 and the 30D around $1100. That's just for the bodies! Gotta buy lenses for them ... yep. For example, my Canon 24-70 wide angle lens retails for around $1150 and my Canon 70-200 zoom retails for around $1650. Then there's the endless list of accessories to make shooting easier, but I won't get into all that. Why do they cost this much? LOL, let's save that for another lesson.
  2. Upload RAW image files from my camera's Compact Flash (CF) memory card onto my computer's hard drive. Typical number of images from a portrait session is around 100-150. Weddings are typically around 1000+. Typical time to upload is around 10 minutes to 30 minutes. I use SanDisk Extreme III 4gb cards. They retail around $75 a piece. I have a handful of those :)
  3. Sort through photos and begin global editing process in Adobe Lightroom (LR). LR retails for around $300. In LR, I like to fine tune exposure and color saturation to give it that "pop". LR has many tools to do this - Curve adjustments, Vibrance, Saturation, HSL, Color boosts, Vignette, Clarity, Highlight recovery, Brightness, Contrast, and so much more. I'll also add effects to give it my artistic touch that my clients expect and love. Typical time in Lightroom = 3-6 hours for portrait sessions, 16 to 24 hours for weddings.
  4. Export Lightroom images to JPEG. I shoot in RAW mode so I can have more control over the image, but it needs to be converted into a format for printing. JPEG is that format. Typical export time for portraits = 10-15 minutes. Export time for weddings = 30-45 minutes.
  5. PHOTOSHOP time! Yes I use Adobe Photoshop (PS), it's a great tool. I have PS CS2. CS3 is already out and retails for around $650. I use it for final touches such as retouching, adding other effects, sharpening, and resizing if needed. There's no typical PS time since some photo sets require more or less than the other. Perhaps the most important tool I use in PS would be Kevin Kubotas Magic Sharp action. That's the last step I put all my images through. So many images in fact, I use that action as a batch or automated edit process. This lets me sharpen hundreds or thousands of images while I step away for a few minutes or up to an hour, depending on how much work PS needs to do.
  6. Create the beloved SLIDESHOW! This is one of my favorite steps in the process. I take 50-100 of my favorite images and create a flash-based slideshow to post on my blog for my clients and their friends & families to enjoy. Definitely a client favorite. This process can take up to 2 hours from the time I create the files to the time the upload is complete on the web. The software I use is Show-It Web and retails for around $200.
  7. Upload images onto PICTAGE. Pictage charges photographers $99/month just to use their services. But I still have to pay for all materials (e.g., albums, books, prints, etc.). They handle all order fulfillment, but take a cut of the price. Pictage is great in that it's a true outsource resource, they do EVERYTHING so I can focus on my business and my clients. This is one of the longest processes. First I have to create a client "account" on Pictage. I then need to resize, reformat & organize the photos to meet PICTAGE's format and specs. Then it's time to upload via FTP (file transfer protocol). This can take up to 8 hours! Typically I'll save this step for the evening so when I wake up in the morning, upload is complete :).
  8. Album design is not necessarily a part of post-processing, but it is a process. In an effort to focus on my business & client service, I outsource this step to an album designer. This costs anywhere from $300-400 per design. It's a nice thing to have so that I can ensure a timely delivery of the album to my clients. If I didn't outsource this step it could add months to the delivery process!
Here are some before & after photos. Befores on the LEFT, Afters on the RIGHT:

Amy's original portrait on the left looks great, okay I think she looks beautiful! It's a good exposure, not bad by itself. But I want more. So I add slight retouching to her skin to give it more glow, used my favorite "S-Curve" adjustment, enhanced colors slightly, then sharpened.



The Before pic was a nice captured moment, but I wanted to give it a more timeless look so I added a blue split tone action. I raised the exposure just a tad and then sharpened.


The Before shot was great, good colors (it's what Canon's 5D is famous for!). But in the After photo, I raised the exposure just a bit, added a slight S-Curve adjustment, then boosted the color vibrance in Lightroom. Then I sharpened in Photoshop.


Brooke is so adorable, it was hard not to get a great picture! These were shot around 9:30am on a cool Saturday morning under overcast skies, the morning sun was fighting to poke through those clouds! So I had some nice diffused light to start with which is key to the images I wanted to produce. As you can see, I warmed up the tones in the "after" picture (on the right). With a little S-Curve adjustment, her blue eyes popped nicely. I like using tonal adjustments through the S-Curve method instead of levels and color saturation boosts. For me, this method really gets color to pop nicely. There are many ways to achieve this, I just prefer this method. Sometimes I'll even boost the Vibrance setting in Lightroom before I apply the S-Curve method.


I pretty much did the same as above for this photo...


I love this action shot. The Before pic was cool, but this exact moment had some overcast so I wanted to add some punch and something different. I used a lomo and cross-process effect that enhances & warms colors and adds a nice vignette effect. Cool stuff :)


I really liked the colors in the background of the Before photo. But I wanted more (of course). My goal was to let autumn foliage pop out more so I enhanced the colors again using the s-curve and vibrance tools in Lightroom. Then I sharpened in Photoshop.


I hope this was an interesting read. Please let me know your comments or if you have any questions, let me know!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Autumn Color

We took advantage of some free time this afternoon at Allen Pond to capture some Fall color before it goes away. I've been too busy to make the drive out to Shenandoah where the colors are always so much more spectacular. But the local foliage isn't too bad as you can see. Sunset was around 4:50pm today, we shot these between 4:15 and 4:30pm. This is why I tell my clients about the afternoon light before sunset! You get nice directional and softer light. I also learned again how much I LOVE my Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS zoom lens! My Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L wide angle lens totally rocks, but the 70-200mm always wins me over. All photos were photographed with my Canon 5D & 70-200 lens.






Not the most photogenic landscape, but I wanted to show the colors

Had to get some "wildlife" photography in, haha


I really love my ladies!

Yes, she smiles A LOT. I'm a lucky dad (and photographer!), haha!



Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dena, Keith, & Madison's Slideshow

I made a nice slideshow for Dena & Keith's photos. They love black & white so I converted a few of them myself using a split tone action in Photoshop. I hope you enjoy it!




Erin's TTD Session ...Trash The Dress, Sell The Dress!

Here's an interesting story. While in Florida I was commissioned by one of my former brides, Erin, to photograph her one more time in her wedding dress. What we didn't know was that this session would turn into an official trash-the-dress session (yes!!). Halfway into her shoot, Erin's husband encouraged the trashing, and so did I, lol. Erin seemed to think it was time, so the first thought we all had was some beach volleyball. Erin's an avid player so it'd be appropriate to start with a few serves and dives into the sand to get the dress dirty. After that, we headed to the water. I got in the water with Erin so I could get the shots I wanted of Erin dunking herself and the dress. It was awesome!

Then came an interesting event to end the shoot. We had no idea that she'd sell her dress immediately after the trashing!! Yep, you heard right... while I was shooting, Erin's friends (my new clients), Dena & Keith, wanted to watch the photo op. During that time, a woman named Lisa approached Dena about Erin's dress. Lisa is getting married in December and plans on getting her dress wet during the wedding (not sure how), so why not buy Erin's, she thought. She approached Erin after our photo op, asked to try it on, and made an offer. Erin seemed satisfied that the dress has been officially "trashed" and that she'll never wear it again. This was an unusual situation that would surely make for a good story. The dress was sold! Lisa bought it and was very happy and excited about her upcoming wedding. I then showed Lisa a few photos I took while this was going on. Needless to say, she actually left me a voicemail today about shooting her wedding in Florida. Can't wait to call her back!

There are many more photos to come. But for now, here is a short slideshow, some favorites, and the photos from the unexpected sale of the dress :)