Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Let's Talk About My Photos...

OK. So in the past week or two, many of you have been very kind and have either commented here or emailed me saying that you love my photos. It's all very flattering and I truly, truly appreciate it. But you have to understand that I really don't have any sort of special talent or "gift". And I think it's about time I prove this to you all. LOL!

OK. So first of all, I am not a "gifted photographer" with an eye for taking great photos. The truth is, I just take a bazillion photos hoping for one I like. For example, here's a screenshot of photos I took of Hannah yesterday when we were outside.

ACR Screen Shot

Now see all of those photos of her (in the red shirt)? Well, there's another three rows of them if you scroll down on the screen further. Here's the thing. There are about 95 photos there. I took all 95 of those photos in the span of about 10 minutes (if that) and that's no exaggeration. When I decide I want some pictures, I literally just stand there and snap one after the other after the other. Of those 95 shots, there are maybe 10 tops (and that's pushing it) that I really REALLY like.

So that's the thing. The next time you're going to take some pictures, take a TON of them. And don't just stand in one spot. Walk around the person and take them from all different angles. Look down at them. Take some really close up. Take some really far away. Take side shots. Take some from the back. Put your camera down near the ground and snap a picture looking up. And DON'T make the person look at you every time. Almost all of my very, very favorite photos of the kids are side shots where the wind is blowing in front of their face, or they're laughing, or they're looking off into the distance.

OK. So yesterday, I came in from outside and uploaded my photos to my computer and glanced through 'em. I found several I really liked and this, my friends, is where the REAL magic begins. LOL! Photoshop, here I come!

So, I decided I really liked this one...

Sep 23 2007 073

It's a good picture, generally speaking. She looks pretty, smiling nicely, close up, etc. Perfect. But the photo itself is just eh. Too dark, kind of dull, a little too much of a tan/red tint to it, etc.

So I started doing all of the editing steps that I do to ALL photos I take. First I defog the image and then I sharpen the edges. That alone usually boosts up the colors a bit. In the case of this photo, I also lightened it a bit and increased the contrast in the colors just a smidge. Then I did what I also always do to photos of people. I brightened up the whites of her eyes and the catchlights in her eyes ever so slightly. And I mean slightly because if you do too much, it looks demon-like. Then I selected just the irises of her eyes and used my sharpen tool to sharpen them up a bit more.

In this photo, I also used a focus action. Basically, I use my circle tool to select the area of the photo that I want the focus on (her face in this case). Then I blur and darken (slightly) everything in the photo OTHER than that selection.

So this is what I had after all of that.

Sep 23 2007 073 copy

So it doesn't look too much different, but if you compare them side by side, you can see the difference in her eyes and you can see how the trees in the background and her hand are blurred a bit, which helps naturally draw your eyes to her face. It's also a bit brighter and the colors are a bit more saturated.

Sep 23 2007 073Sep 23 2007 073 copy

So what's next you ask? In comes Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), a plug-in with Photoshop. I take the edited photo and open it in ACR.

ACR Screen Shot 2

On the right hand side of the screen are sliders that control pretty much everything about your photo. Brightness, temperature, fill light, contrast, saturation, vibrance, etc. Many times, I just mess around with them all until I get a photo looking like I want it to. But I also have things called "presets". Basically, it takes one click of my mouse to click on the name of a particular preset and all of those sliders automatically adjust to preset levels. Usually, I end up tweaking those settings a bit too, but it's a good starting point.

In the case of this photo, I decided I wanted it really bright, so I messed with the brightness, as well as the saturation levels to really bring out the colors in the picture. I also use ACR to add a subtle dark vignette around the entire photo. All of this takes me 5 minutes tops (usually), and when I'm done, I'm left with this, which is what YOU guys see...

sep 23 2007 073 copyWow

Let's compare the original with the edited version.

Sep 23 2007 073sep 23 2007 073 copyWow

You usually only see the "After" version and that's when I get the questions about what type of camera do I have, what settings do I use, etc. and when I have people compliment my photography skills. But as I've just shown you, I don't think it really IS my photography skill. I have a standard point-and-shoot digital camera. It's a 7.0 megapixel HP PhotoSmart M627 that my mom bought me for Christmas last year. LOL! I can't change lenses and settings and all of that other stuff that you can do with really good cameras. (Dear god, how I dream of owning one of those one day. LOL!) I'm just fairly decent at Photoshop and have the time to play around and read tutorials on the web, etc.

So the next time you see one of my photos, please realize that I'm nothing special. LOL! I am not a photographer that hasn't yet tapped into her true calling in life. I'm a computer geek that likes her Photoshop. So although I appreciate the compliments I receive, they probably aren't really deserved to be honest with you. It's not to say that I don't still want to get them. LOL! Just don't be that impressed with me. I'm really not that special. :P

In fact, here's what we'll do. If anyone out there has a photo or two they want me to mess around with, you can email it to me. I'll do what I can on it and then post the Before and After shots here. Then you'll see that even YOU can take kick ass pictures if you can also edit them well too. There's a "Contact Me" button up there under my profile pic. (I'll post it at the bottom of this post too.) It will take you to a site where you can contact me via email without learning what my email address is. You can't attach photos there though, so once I get your email and I decide you're not some freaky ass psycho (LOL!), I'll email you back for real and you can send me some pictures. Sound good? Cool. Get 'em to me! :)


Tink said...

You can say what you want, but I still think you're a damn skilled photographer. Part of the skill is knowing how to tweak the pictures to make them look the best. I've been playing with the info you gave me (THANK YOU AGAIN). Last night I discovered the "lense flare" effect. I had at least twelve shots where it looked like angels were shooting out of the sky. That or a bomb was going off. *Snort* I love this program.

Chelle Y. said...

I agree with Tink! You still have talent! Great talent!

Also, I love the information on how to take great pictures too! :)

Kelly R. said...

I third Tink. Just accept the fact and move on. ;o)

SueQ54172 said...

Don't sell yourself short! Whether you photoshop or not, either way you have an eye for what makes a great photo. I myself started getting serious about taking photos only a few months ago with a new point and shoot G7. Since then I've been reading online resources, checking out library books and I've even recently done my first wedding! My husband bought me a beginner DSLR with a kit lens, but you are a prime example that it's not the camera that makes a great photo, it's the person behind the camera. Don't lose the fun and passion that you have for taking photos. I believe that's the magic of it all!