Tag Archives: edit

Practice Makes Progress

14 Apr

Vortex (reprocessed) :: CT

Last weekend I spent some time reprocessing some older photos for a write-up on the Outbound.  As I looked through my older shots, I kept asking myself, “What the heck were you thinking??”

The shots themselves were solid compositions (in my opinion) but the edits were….well…not.  They were okay, but they didn’t reflect where I am as an artist today.

Art is funny that way, ya know?  Trends change.  The look that was popular a few years ago is most definitely not what we see now.  A few years ago, many of the landscapes you saw were run through HDR software, so they had very even tones across the board.  The highlights and deep shadows were pulled back, and the lack of dynamic light was over-shadowed by the fantastic colors.


The Vortex :: CT

Older version of the same image is significantly different based on both growing my editing skills and current trends.

Now, you’re seeing a trend for extremely dramatic light…lot of deep shadows during the magic hours.  Think Ryan Dyar or Marc Adamus.

Now, these shots are stunning.  But having watched the HDR revolution come and go, I can definitely see it’s a trend.  I have no idea how long it will last, before the next editing style gets its 15 minutes of fame.

Which brings up a good point, I think….  Your edits really can make or break an image.  It’s important to learn to use your camera in the field, but in today’s world, your edits can hold almost as much weight.  If you put together a well composed photo in good light, but the edit doesn’t highlight the strong points of the image, it will get overlooked in favor of an image with the more popular editing trends.

Now, if you make art for you…then you do what looks best to your eye!  But if you make art for a living…then you need to catch the buyers eye or you can’t put food on the table.

For me personally, I strive for a photo with dynamic, molded light.  I don’t often go so far as to create surreal images, but rather, I’ll try to enhance the light as it falls normally. Molded light is…well…my newest trend. 😉

The shot above was taken at Enders Falls in CT.

For more information about the edit and/or classes, contact me at seespotsphoto at yahoo dot com.

Also, if you’re an iPhone/iPad user, check out my newest article on seeing in Black and White in issue 9 of Light and Landscape magazine.

Light Play

20 May
With Bated Breath

With Bated Breath

With the world being flooded with digital images, the edit you put on a photo is just as important as the thought, resources and skill it took to capture the files in the first place.  Your choices, your editing style and methods can totally change the feel of a finished product.

How so, you ask?  (Or if you didn’t, you should have!)

Well, the obvious answer is that art is subjective, our eyes perceive the world differently and when we begin the creative process – the moment when we put our eye to the camera – our idea of how the image should be shaped belongs to us, as the artist alone.

Our choice in edits helps to bring those ideas to fruition.

With Bated Breath :: Light Painting

With Bated Breath :: Light Painting

For example, this is an example of light painting.  The colors and highlights within this image were enhanced with a layer dedicated solely to painting in color and light where it needed a boost.  To me, the details still lack a bit of contrast, but I like the moody feel of the light and the boost given to the lackluster sunrise.

With Bated Breath :: HDR

With Bated Breath :: HDR

Now, this photo is an HDR – more detail, but lacks the depth that comes along with dynamic light.  This particular image, to me, has the feel of a painting.  It is a great re-creation of nature, but it doesn’t feel real.

For this particular image, I chose to mix the two techniques, masking in which parts of each version I enjoyed.  The final version is the photo at the top of the post.

Now, is any one way better than the others?  No.  Not really.  It’s art.  If you love the painterly feel, you’ll probably hang the HDR version.  If you love light bleed, you’ll shoot for the light painting effect.

That’s the thing about art.  It’s 100% in the eye of the beholder.  First and foremost, I work to learn and create images I enjoy.  Once you develop a style, then you will define your market.

Landscape Game-Face

15 Jan
Andover Lake (After Feedback)

Andover Lake (After Feedback)

An alternate title for this is, “Thank Goodness for PhotoShop Wizard-Friends”.

I’ve just come off of a long run of landscape photo obstacles. I was swamped with wedding and portrait edits, then I had hand surgery, then Wimpy Shann didn’t want to go out in the cold… haha Last week, however, an opportunity presented itself, so I took it. I put my warm scarf on, put a glove on my one good hand (the other one was sill in a surgical wrap at that point), told my friend to carry my tripod, and off we went.

The sky was lovely, beautiful wispy clouds with a jet streaking across the colorful sunset. The lake was tranquil, and there were some fun rocks conveniently jutting out from the shore. So far, so good…right?

I took several brackets, trying a number of different angles and heights. When we finally got cold enough, we packed it in, went back to the car and headed for the first cup of hot cocoa we could find. 🙂

I eventually got to the business of editing, and had a serious, major brain meltdown. After my third attempt (read that as “fail”) at an edit, I decided I needed help. I reached out to my very talented photographer-friend David Pasillas (if you don’t follow him, please start!) because he is a photoshopping wizard, and because he has a spectacular ability to analyze the psychology of an image.

“What does that mean?” you say. Well, let me tell you!

This was the email I sent to David:

Why….? I can’t figure out how to make this look the way I want it to look. I know that’s not a lot to go on, but you’re an editing wizard. Make it work?

His response:

I’ll have you know I crawled out of my warm bed to have a look in photoshop. Here’s what I see…I feel like a doctor about to deliver the bad news haha…

I don’t think it is going to make it.

The vignette throws the water off for me. Somehow there are dark shadows and very bright highlights on the lake. It’s a little distracting to me. Maybe if the middle of the water wasn’t so bright, the scene would work better.

The rocks in the foreground seem like they’re not going to work either because the mountains in the background are totally blacked out. That tells my brain that the rocks in the foreground should be really dark too, or at the very least, have much deeper shadows.

Don’t tell David I said this…but he is right. The prognosis wasn’t good.

Andover Lake (Before Feedback)

Andover Lake (Before Feedback)

I really took what he said to heart, thinking about the way our brains process information and what looks “normal” to our eyes. Raw files give us the ability to do a lot of crazy things to an image…I’ve seen snaps that used to be a total loss turn into great images with some work. But doing that requires a lot of work and thinking on our – the editors – end of things.

In my case, I realized that I had spent a bit too much time in portfolio-land, and needed to flip the switch to “landscapes” in my brain. In general, the skills needed to process different genres of images are the same…however, they may not be applied in the same fashion or amounts. I wasn’t thinking about the subtlety of light across a quiet lake…I was still stuck in the multi-portrait workflow.

So…back to square one! I took a better (more meticulous) approach to this one and came out with something I could, at the very least, post on the internet. Haha 😉

The Answer

29 Jun

In Wednesday’s post, I asked you guys to identify which of the two “red house” photos was processed as an HDR image. It’s time for the big reveal. 🙂

The answer is, the first image was processed as an HDR pano. The second was processed using layers and masks.

The reason I bring it up though, is that despite being processed in two very different ways, the images have some very similar qualities.  Let’s start with the first image:

The House on Grass Island

The House on Grass Island

This image is actually two HDR images stitched together. The first thing I did is run all 6 of the original exposures through Lightroom for basic chromatic aberration correction and some sharpening. Those images were them run through an HDR algorithm and the two HDR composites were then stitched to create a slightly wider view of the scene (and a nicer leading line to the bottom right corner).

From there, I adjusted things such as the curves, levels, saturation levels and some noise removal. The lower half of the house still seemed grainy and dark, so I masked in a lighter exposure and blended until I was happy with the look of the house. I’m sure there were a few more tweaks here or there, but in a nutshell, that was the process.

Beach House

Beach House

Now for the second image, I tried a comparative edit.

The second image was a layer and mask luminous blend. The first steps in Lightroom were exactly the same. From there, I pulled up PhotoShop and opened the medium exposure for the centered red house image. It was well exposed for the sky, so that was my starting point.

From there, I layer on the lighter (over exposed) version and masked the image so that the sand (and the lower half of the house) from the lighter exposure and the sky from the medium exposure both showed on the same image. On top of that I layered the darkest version but adjusted the layer to somewhere between 5-10% opacity, so that it was adding texture to the shadows without darkening the overall image. This gave me a decent exposure for the whole image, and a good starting point.  A base image, if you will.

From there, I added curves, layers, saturation and other tweaks. The thing that really lent the image an appearance similar to the first photo, though, was a reduced opacity base layer copy set to overlay blending mode. Overlay blend does two things at once by combining Photoshop functions – it brightens the lights and darkens the darks, in essence bumping the contrast without affecting the base colors.  It gave the image pop, noticeably sharpening the detail of the photo. (Note, beware the halos when you try this!)

Overlay Example

Overlay Example

Just like anything else in the world of art, there are so many ways to get to your final image.  Edit experimentation is one of the many ways I use to find new ways to express myself through my photography. The more I practice and play, the more confident I am in my ability to apply polish to photos.

I truly believe we never stop learning in life.  Education enriches our life, keeps us healthy and feeds the things we are passionate about. So I encourage you all to practice, to play and to learn! As my good friend and monthly collab co-host Nick says, “Live Life::Love Life – Refuse to settle for anything less than your best self.” 🙂

The Details

14 Jun

The other night, I was editing an image.  I was cloning out a scuff on the wall behind my subject, and a friend asked why I would bother.

My answer? Portrait edits are an art unto themselves.  The difference between an “ok” photo and a photo that pops can very well be in the details.

Kevin Howard - Edit

Kevin Howard – Edit


Kevin Howard - No Edit

Kevin Howard – No Edit

Obviously, as with anything else in life, there needs to be some substance to the image to begin with.  Good composition, feel…an emotional connection to the subject are all so important in portrait photography.  The thing that adds the polish though, is a strong edit.

Are the tones even?  Are there distracting shadows? Are the eyes bright? Teeth? Are there distracting blemishes? Wrinkles? Fly-aways?

What about the background?  Is the backdrop clear of distractions?  If you missed something while shooting, are you making a conscious decision to leave that in while you post process…or did you never see it to begin with?

Personally, I almost always prefer to dress my images up before I show them to the world.  Especially when these are paid images that will be used for publication!  A happy client will bring you more business…and that alone is motivation to clone stamp til the cows come home! 😉

Kevin Howard - Poster

Kevin Howard – Poster

Shake, Shake, Shake…

29 Apr

Vintage is in.  That means polaroids are groovy again. Can ya dig?

Polaroid of a Polaroid?

Polaroid of a Polaroid?

I bought this guy cheap simply because I enjoy photographing old cameras.  There is a strange, yet satisfying irony in it.  I also determined that the best way to edit this image would be to crank the vintage knob to 100 for two reasons.  The first obvious…I wanted to mimic the Polaroid prints it would have produced.  But also, as I mentioned in a previous (incredibly awesome, well-thought-out, inspiring, almost as good as a cold beer) post, vintage feels have been made popular by apps like Instagram and who am I to disagree with the laws of supply and demand. It’s what people want, therefore, it’s what people will get!

Also, for those of you in the know, yes I was referencing one of my favorite songs – Shake, Shake, Shake – off of one of my favorite band’s newest album. And for those of you who aren’t in the know…check them out! http://www.bronzeradioreturn.com/

The Stanley Cup Playoffs!

22 Apr

Oh.  Wait.  That’s what I’m watching, not what this blog is about. (Go B’s!)

This blog is about a little thing called texture as it pertains to photography. Visual texture is the illusion of having physical texture. (Apparently no one told The Wik you can’t define a word with the word. So, as a supplement to that…)

Texture [teks-cher] (noun): the imitation of the tactile quality of represented objects. (Dictionary.com with the assist! Do they have assists in hockey?)

Ok, so now that we know what it issssss, how does it apply to photography?  And more importantly, why?

Texture – or rather, the appearance of texture – is generally applied to photos to either add interest and mood, or to help emphasize and isolate the subject of an image.  The first instance – of adding interest or mood – works in conjunction with color balance an image.  I’ve talked about that in the past here.  The texture aspect of it helps to give the viewer an impression of something.  For example, a grungy texture by itself may give the original image an edge to it.  Combine that with an underexposed image, desaturated colors or a color balance heavy on the blues, and you have instant moodiness!  It’s another tool in your arsenal to convey a message with your art.

If your intent is to help isolate a subject, rather than direct an emotion, then the texture is applied with a similar mindset as vignetting. You want to use the textures to draw the eye to the subject by creating white noise – which your brain will ignore – throughout the rest of the photo.  The part of the image that is left without texture…aka, the subject…will be the focal point.

The term texture can apply to pretty much anything that you would care to layer on top of a photograph for the aforementioned purposes.  This can be anything from a built in texture option in PhotoShop to another image – bokeh, crinkled paper, patterned fabric, greenery, construction materials…whatever – layered on top of the original photo.

The quick version of “how” is to open your original photo in Photoshop (or any editing software that does layers), and to create extra layers with the textures you want to include.  From there, you adjust the opacity sliders and mask out the sections that you want to leave untouched.  You may also want to adjust things like the warmth and contrast of the image.

There is no “right” way to texture an image.  Just like all other aspects of art, it’s a matter of taste.  You have to find what works for you, and the individual photo.  In this particular case, the intent was to emphasize the cement behind the subject, and to add to the moodiness of the image.  I used both Film Grain and Dust/Scratches options found in PhotoShop.  The image was desaturated and color balanced, and the normal portrait edits were made to remove obvious blemishes, sharpen, etc.

With Film Grain and Dust

With Film Grain and Dust

And for comparison purposes, the image without texture.

No Textures

No Textures