Arlington Revisited

By Mark

It has been a bit, since we have written.  Unfortunately, it is proposal season again and real life interferes with our photography work.  As both of us are military retirees, we take the honor of supporting veterans funerals very seriously.  We went down last month to Arlington, to photograph a family friend of Roger’s internment of their father, a Vietnam era F-4 flyer. 

The Army’s “Old Guard” 3rd Infantry Division is most well known for their role as the keepers of the Tomb of the Unknowns, and the funeral caisson mounted troops.   Less well known is that each service maintains an honor guard who support the services for their members. 

These young men and women demonstrate honor, dignity and respect for each family and they do this, multiple times per day.  

These services go on in regardless of the weather.  Our day was overcast, damp and breezy, but the day before was pouring rain and just miserable.  Yet, the Marines were there laying Senator John Glenn to rest.  You can see the rain pouring off the Commandant of the Marine Corps’ cover in this photo by Rachel Larue.

(C) Rachel Larue

(C) Rachel Larue

There is something that grabs you when you hear the three volleys from the 21-gun salute.

The sun managed to come out and touch the colors at the right time.

I won’t pretend that the sailors march with the same precision as the Army and Marines, but there aren’t too many parade grounds at sea. 

This is Armed Forces Day weekend and next week is Memorial Day.  Take a moment to think of those who are serving, those who have, and those who never came back.   

Getting Started Editing in LR Mobile

By Mark

Late breaking development (so to speak), Adobe today announced that you can now show RAW HDR from the LR Mobile camera app.  Wait, you didn’t know LR Mobile had a camera app?   Well that will be much farther down the listing of topics, giving all of you something to look forward to.

LR Mobile can edit your pictures in a couple of different ways.  First it can serve as a non-destructive method for editing the images on your camera roll.  Secondly, it can edit the photos from your desktop connection which you have chosen to be synchronized.  It is that second category which is amazing, because LR is really working on the very small smart preview file and not on the larger image, but when it synchronizes, the changes you applied are reflected on your image and in the history for that image.

Let’s start with just a basic example.  I shot this not so great image in a restaurant with my iPhone.  The white balance is really off, as my model was not suffering from jaundice.  Just a quick adjustment and now she looks normal, well as normal as our beloved Kaitlyn can be.

Here is a basic image I shot last fall at the LHS football game.  It was a pretty sunset, but the image didn’t quite capture the full range of color.

One of the first editing tasks is usually just selecting and culling the ones you want to work on.  LR allows you to use the same pick or reject flags and/or rating stars.  You then can then filter them quickly, allowing you to focus on only the images worth your time to edit. 

First let’s talk about the basic editing controls at the bottom of the screen:

Filmstrip-does exactly what you expect and opens up a scrollable filmstrip of whatever group of images you are working on.

Crop- allows you to change the aspect ratio of your image using a set of predefined ratios, or you can grab the edges of your image via the control box, or you can rotate the image via the little wheel underneath your image.

IMG_0215.PNG

Presets- opens up a selection of sub menus with common recipes for adjusting an image; Creative, Color, B&W, Detail, Effect, and Camera

Edit- opens the equivalent of the basic develop module panel from your desktop version.  Over on the left side, underneath the aperture icon are the advanced features we’ll talk about next time.

Everything above applies global changes to the whole image.  They have now added a new Selective control, which lets you apply limited adjustments for those basic panels.  You use your fingers like a brush and can apply multiple fixes. 

That’s a lot of material just in the basic features, so go off and play with your images. Remember, you can’t really hurt anything.

Portraits Without a Studio

By Roger (26 February 2017)

Humans have a long history of making portraits, with all sorts of tools. Photographers began adding to this history as soon as the camera was invented. Portrait photography began as a stiff pose (because of the long exposure times required), in front of a very controlled background.

As film became more responsive and artificial lighting was improved, portraits were easier to make, but the general environment didn't change much. You made an appointment with the photographer's front office; got all dressed up; and went into a separate building, with big (hot) lights. If you were a kid, you knew this was important to your parents, but you felt intimidated by the stranger behind a big chunk of metal and glass. Your parents would joke with you; cajole you; and/or threaten you to achieve the desired “natural smile.” (OK, I may be painting the scene with an over-dramatic brush....)

To be clear, the portraiture I'm describing is a deliberate event to make a person's photograph. We're not talking about great photos of people that happened because an alert photographer, saw a special pose, background, or lighting, and happened to use his camera to capture that moment in time.

Many years ago, I had full access to a nice studio, with tall ceilings, lots of seamless paper choices, big lights, and modifiers. We made mostly formal portraits because that's what clients expected back then. We had room to create unique sets for portraits when we wanted to stretch a little.

Lots of seamless paper and bright lights

Today, however, most people aren't making many trips to the photographer's studio. People don't want to take the time to travel to a studio; they think those sessions are too expensive; or they're more comfortable in relaxed environments. Everyone has a camera on their phones and too many think a snapshot is “good enough.” There are many and varied reasons the old idea of a portrait studio is fading, but studios are suffering from the lack of business.

Regardless, people still want portraits – formal and otherwise. If you want to make nice portraits, but don't want to pay for a studio, you need to move in a different direction. You need to be able to make photos wherever you find your subjects and ensure the quality is comparable to the studios of olden days. This is much easier and less expensive than you might think.

To be fair, there have always been photographers who needed to make portraits away from a formal studio. Wedding photographers might make pre-ceremony studio photos of the bride (as above), but had to make on-venue photos during the wedding. Model and family photographers traveled to various location shoots and brought their lighting with them. You can adopt their methods when you want to make a deliberate portrait.

The equipment list doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg. With the quality of today's cameras, you don't have to worry about its ability to create a portrait. You want good quality lenses, but that doesn't always mean the most expensive. I recommend some lights and modifiers, but, again, you don't have to spend a fortune. White sheets, in front of windows, can produce a very nice softbox. The only requirement would be practice, to learn how to best use your equipment and produce consistent effects.

Front yard, with flash and softbox

Useful locations can be found almost anywhere, especially if you're shooting tight. Think your photo through and pay attention to your viewfinder. You want to inspect it to see what to include or exclude. In the shot below, you can see I had my granddaughter stand in front of a narrow window panel, by our front door. You can see the dining room table (cluttered, of course) behind her. I moved closer for the final shot, for a cleaner background and easier post-processing.

Inside, with window light only

I made another portrait with her sister, on the other side of the door, taking advantage of the lines of the door panels. They provided more interest, without being a distraction. These photos were taken less than six feet apart but look totally different. The only lighting tool used was a reflector for the second shot.

Outside, with reflector

I like to keep the portraits simple, with few distractions that move the viewers eyes away from the subject. However, that doesn't always mean you need to shoot tight. Even simple backgrounds can help your composition. In the photo below, the horizontal and vertical lines echo the couple's pose and guide your eyes directly to the subjects.

Outside, with flash and reflector

You would be right to point out that I violated a couple of composition “rules” in the portrait of the Native American fighter, from the Battle of New Orleans Bicentennial. He's centered and the wood line cuts across the middle of the photo. It works in this portrait because of the symetry and balance of the subject. The 4x5 crop increases this feeling. The background is blurred, but it's easily identifiable as foliage. You may disagree, but I think this is a case where violating the rules works to my portrait's advantage.

Outside, with reflector

We all like to mix things up a bit, now and then. When you begin to complicate the portrait, you will find more little problems that need to be fixed. For this last photo, the sun was on the opposite side of the B&B. The lamp certainly wasn't bright enough to sufficiently illuminate her face. I used a flash, on the inside and on low power, to fix that. There were obnoxious reflections on the window, over parts of her face, but a slight upturn of the camera took care of those. I needed to adjust her skin tone to reduce the color shift from the orange room. I experimented with cropping out the lamp, but, in the end, I think it adds more than it detracts.

Outside, shooting in, flash

We've talked post-processing in previous posts, so I won't dwell on that here. I put some effort into skin tones and removing obvious blemishes, but I'm not a fan of over-processing the skin. Any stray distractions in the background are removed. I usually just brush in sharpening around important features, like the eyes, rather than global sharpening. And, then it's done.

I still enjoy going to studios when I get the chance, but you don't have to have a dedicated building to make nice portraits. You control what the viewers see in your final photo, and, with practice, you can make a portrait almost anywhere . The results are all that matter to your subject.

You will be surprised how much you can do when you get into the portable studio mode. There are even books covering the subject. One of the best is Nick Fancher's Studio Anywhere (link), if you'd like to go more in-depth. Nick goes into great detail on his portraits, with light diagrams and equipment descriptions. Give him a read.

Starting with Lightroom Mobile

By Mark

Last week we started discussing the family of mobile device apps developed by Adobe.  For me, the one I use the most must be LR mobile.  It is not intended to be replacement for the desktop version.  That being said, you can do more and more editing on the app, and with the latest release, Adobe has even introduced their own interface to the device’s camera which shoots and processes native RAW format images.  The app works on iPads, iPhones and Android devices. 

LR Mobile allows you to edit, rate, present images while on the go.  The software doesn’t directly edit your images, aside from the ones taken on your device, instead it works on the “Smart Preview” thumbnail. These are much smaller files, but they are linked back to your main catalog on your computer.  Changes you make in LR mobile, will change those images, once your device is synchronized.  Like all adjustments in LR, any or all of them can be changed back. 

To begin taking advantage of LR mobile, you have to start back on your desktop installation.  Access to your images is based upon setting up and enabling Collections.  Collections, I hope you recall are one of the most powerful features of LR.  No one really wants to see all 5000 photographs of your vacation.  With collections, you can select only the best images of that trip, or set up collections for only your 5 Star portraits, or…, whatever you want to showcase.  Currently, you can’t synchronize Smart Collections, but they are working on that.

It is a simple three step process to begin displaying photos on your devices.  Once LR mobile is installed, just log in to your Adobe account.   Back at your desktop, at the top menu, you will see a “Synchronize with LR Mobile”. 

It will ask you to login again to your Adobe account.  Now, assuming you already have collections set up, you will see an additional check box to the far left of the menu.  Click on them and it will display a bi-directional arrow indicating that LR will synch the images in that collection.    If you want to see how many total images you are sharing, they have added this information to the Topmost Catalog panel.

I mentioned that you can set up your devices to auto upload from the phone/IPad into your LR collection.  Rather than recreating an already created tutorial, here is a link to one from Lightroom Killer Tips.  http://lightroomkillertips.com/how-to-automatically-add-your-camera-phone-photos-to-lightroom/

I have not even started on all the editing tools, but that will have to wait for next week’s blog.