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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bringing it all together

Great minds do think alike. So when Ashley; the owner of Style Lounge contacted me to meet up and discuss a project she wanted for her new salon, we both had the same idea already; several looks but with the same model. I like the idea because all too often I always detect in photos with multiple models, one model whose presence dominates the shot, and one model who always sort of just fade into the background. It makes the day longer and planning must be precise when using the same model but you have to admit, there is a natural balance that doesn't exist otherwise. Will it work for everything? Of course not, but not because it cannot, but because variety sometimes becomes a necessity. But for this particular project it was the perfect ingredient. I basically took 4 different shots, each with its own look, and stacked or layered them on top of one another utilizing a layering process in photoshop. It's a really simple process as long as you keep two very important things in mind: 1) The  Camera Cannot Move At All, so a tripod is necessary and 2) Light Balance you do not want one model looking darker than the other one.The more layers you use, the more critical this becomes, otherwise you end up with a very photoshopped looking photo with poor results. I have attached the 4 untouched photos to reveal my lighting techniques for the shots as well. Hope you like my finished results and feel inspired to give it a try yourself.

How was it done:
Nikon D700
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 28mm
28 inch ( 70 cm) beauty dish with sock
strobe with bounce umbrella
SB-900 speedlight with GOBO
Hair Light on boom
SB1-shutter release
Camera settings: 
ISO: 320
Shutter speed: 1/100th second
Aperture: f/11
I wish I could provide one of those diagrams but my explanation will get you there. Boomed 28 inch beauty dish with sock was placed camera left, about 8ft away and approximate height was 6 ft facing sofa. Bounce Umbrella was 3 feet left of beauty dish at about 8.5 ft away approximate height of 7ft and used to light right side of sofa area and chair. Meter for fall off. I added the SB900 at 1/4 power for fill light on subject sitting on right side of sofa. I used a GOBO to keep the flash from bouncing in my lens during the shot ( if you look in the photos I am utilizing a small picture frame in front of the SB900 placed on the lower shelf of the small table. Because the table was black I used a bright colored frame with a black backing to aide with editing. The black backing of the frame assured me that the light would be blocked). The hair light boom was placed in different locations for the shot. I did not use the hair light on the subject sitting on left end of sofa simply because I forgot to set it up and I was satisfied with the results without it, but saw how it could have assisted me because I had to make a small lighting adjustment to the skin tone of this single face and that is why I stress get a good light balance. Place camera on tripod get a good focus and place lens in manual mode.Do not move camera from this point going forward. Shoot model with however many positions and looks as you need or want for your completed project. Important step here is to be sure your that the shot you will utilize as the base photo (the one which you will be adding the other subjects) is free of any booms, cords or anything that you do not want in the frame, unless you just like photoshopping out things that don't have to be there. Because the chair shot was my base shot, I left the speedlight in place to eliminate any problems with strange shadows and lighting once I put in the other photos that needed the light.
Editing: Make any necessary adjustments to your subject but do not make any lighting adjustments to the photos until you have stacked them into a single photo.
1. Open the photos in whatever version of CS you are using, and begin with your base photo first.
2. Open the next photo you will add and click on menu bar SELECT-ALL, then from the menu click on EDIT-COPY, and EDIT-PASTE it onto the top of the base photo. You should be now looking at just the photo you just copied and unable to see the 1st photo. Next click the  ADD LAYER MASK located on the bottom menu of your process window in the right corner of the screen (the add  layer icon looks like a little box with a white circle in it). A white layer should appear next to the photo in the processing window. Again go to the menu bar and choose EDIT-FILL and use: BLACK. The white layer mask should now turn black and you should only be seeing the photo you chose for the base. Select your paint brush and paint in white where the subject is located you want to appear in the photo. Instantly it should appear as if you are painting the subject into the photo. Zoom in and be sure you completely painted in the subject and there are no errors. If you make an error, you can click the toggle switch for the layers (a black and white box stacked diagonally on top of each other)  located in your TOOLS menu and switch it from the black to the white and it will reverse the paintbrush process back to it's original state as you paint. Repeat process as often as you need to complete your project. When you have added all the layers you want to, go to the menu bar and select LAYERS-MERGE LAYERS. this will bring all the layers into one single photo layer. Now you can make any lighting adjustments you  want and they will affect the entire photo. In the case where I adjusted the lighting tone on a single subject, I used the lasso tool and isolated the effect. Good luck with the process and have fun.
You can read and figure out all of this or you can click on this link and use this tutorial I just found on YOUTUBE which will give you a visual of everything I just said: working with layer mask in photoshop

Monday, November 19, 2012


Shashin o totte mo ii desu ka? Translated to english it means can I take a photo? I learned this phrase quite well during my stay in Japan. Having my camera with me most of the time prepared me to always be ready to capture something in digital, but nothing could have prepared me for the first day I met Nami Miyazaki. I was tongue tied and I couldn't even remember the first word in the phrase. I wanted to set up a shoot right there on the spot. No test shoot was necessary. Her unique blend of Kenyan and Japanese heritage already certified that she would yield great images just from watching her approach me. But as it turned out this shoot wasn't going to be just any ordinary day. The makeup artist on hand was the ultra talented Niki Medina whose heritage derived from the Phillipines. This shoot was going to have to be something uniquely different than the towering buildings and crowded streets of Tokyo. Yugihama Beach in the Kamakura District located about 31 miles south-south-west of Tokyo was chosen. But the uniqueness of this shoot still wasn't over. Traveling light, I had nothing but my SB-900 and no external power. I knew I was going to need a reflector/bounce, and I had forgotten to pack mine.Niki showed up with her younger sister; Katrina in tow. I smiled because I knew I could teach her how to hold a reflector as soon as I fabricated one. Buying a roll of aluminum foil and finding a piece of cardboard, I was set. Looking back on this shoot,  my translator had absolutely nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the view and the weather. I didn't need anything translated to Japanese; well, except for "can I take a photo"?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Never stop growing

Wow it has been a roller coaster and I wouldn't trade a single moment of the experience for the world. If there is any truth to the statement that when it rains it pours, then I am dancing in the rain. I'll have to blog about it once some of the legalities are over and I can speak about it. So what does it have to do with growing? Everything. Without failures there would be no progress, without actions there would be no reaction. Without momentum, there would be no moving forward. Today I looked at a blog of one of my most admired photographers and in his blog there was this photo taken from a low point revealing just  how beautiful things can get when you just look up. And that is also what happened when I looked up and saw little Yessi smiling and waving in my direction. It seem like so very long ago since I last saw Yessi, and I would have expected her to be wearing boxing gloves and standing like a B-boy. The third photo was taken a few years ago, and I added it to sort of time-lapse this story between than and now. She looked radiant, happy and certainly not like a B-boy or girl for that matter. I wanted to capture that moment quickly before she relapsed so I grabbed my ring flash and decided this would be a good time to shoot a few single light shots and determine power to distance with the ringflash. There isn't a more finer tool for getting high key shots in my own honest opinion. I wanted to keep Yessi smiling so I kept talking about her tomboy days and her eyes kept smiling and laughing. I don't know why I am so fixated with the eyes but it is always through the eyes that I determine how I would shoot something. I took a few test shots and was amazed at what we had captured with Yessi in a dark dress standing near a white wall. Wanting to switch it up a bit, I asked Yessi to make a quick change, and so she slipped into a light colored top and we used a dark color wall at relatively the same distance. The lighting was just a tad bit darker, so I made a minor adjustment and the results were as amazing. Yessi looked at the photos and I can tell from the look in her eyes that she knew she was no longer going to be referred to as one of the fellas ever again. In her quiet soft voice she said she liked wearing heels now. We both laughed about that one because I could recall her sister saying to me that her mom wanted to see Yessi wear a dress and heels just one time for her.
"Last night I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders, and today I realized that it was only my reflection from standing on top of the world."

How was it done:

High Key B&W shot:
Tamron 28-75 2.8 (68 mm)
Alien Bee 800 ringflash
ISO: 100
Aperture: f/10
Shutter speed: 1/160th second 
(changed to B&W in Lightroom)

Color shot:
Tamron 28-75mm (68 mm)
Alien Bee ringflash
ISO: 100
Aperture: f/8
Shutter speed: 1/160