Ordinary to Extraordinary

There are so many truly wonderful aspects of photography - one of those being your own personal passion and imagination. Almost any ordinary picture can be made into an extraordinary photo, with just a few simple editing techniques. Each photographer has his or her favorites, and below are some examples of my favorites...

Original Wedding Photo Below

Levels Adjusted and More
Obviously the color is brighter, but if you look closely, the sky is an entirely different color. I selected only the skyline with the magnetic lasso tool and used the hue/saturation tool (with colorize selected) to brighten up the entire scene.

And that personal touch came with the cropping. In any other picture, I woudn't have dared to take such a very small portion of the original. But it was for a slide-show and quality wasn't of vast importance.
Lesson: inspiration often comes unexpectedly;
don't knock it til you try it.

Original Photo Below
A grandfather went on and on about how his "little angel" seemed to only be an angel in his eyes... Never cooperating for pictures, not even allowing her hair to be professionally done.

A stubborn little girl & her refusal to look at the camera was actually a blessing in disguise...
As she looks so sweet & innocent - almost angelic - after editing.

The levels were adjusted & the photo cropped. Then a sepia effect was added, and the edges were burned. What a difference those quick changes made.

More to come soon on turning ordinary into extraordinary...!


Replacing Backgrounds

In yesterday's post, I showed some green screen shots & how the background can be replaced. But I'm about to show you that it can be just as easy to replace the backgrounds of other pictures as well - sometimes it's even easier.

**To make it interesting, I'll be placing before & after pictures throughout this post of backgrounds I've edited or replaced.**

Cloning out parts of a background for wedding photos...
This was done by cloning out the distractions in the background, cropping, & putting a vignette around the photo.

When replacing the background of any picture (like the ones above and below), it's important to remember that the first step is always to duplicate your image in Photoshop. This will allow you to easily slip a background in behind the photo, and you can even go back & erase parts of the background to show parts of the original picture you may not have realized you needed.

Replacing a background for a kids photo...
By lassoing & deleting the background, I was able to replace it with a very festive background and border.

The next step is to select your subject(s) that you want to remain in the photo. I typically do this by using a combination of the magnetic lasso tool (shortcut L) and the regular lasso tool. The magnetic lasso will "stick" to the outer edge of a person/object. The only stipulation to this tool is that I usually have to zoom in pretty close to get an accurate selection.

After I've gotten most of what I want selected, I simply hold down the shift key while continuing to lasso parts that I missed, or parts that I couldn't get with just one grab. If there happens to be a portion that I lassoed & didn't mean to, I simply hold down the option key and it will deselect the portion I didn't need.

Just replacing part of a background - like the window...
The magnetic lasso tool makes photos like this a breeze.
This photo has also been brightened by using levels in Photoshop.

This may sound just a bit backwards thus far... We're cutting out the background, right? Why are we selecting what we want to keep in the picture? Because for me, it's always been easier to select the subject(s) rather than the background. That is simply my personal preference. And after all the selecting is said & done, we then go to the "select" tab and "deselect" (or Apple + D if you like the shortcuts) then simply delete your background.

Backgrounds can also simply be blurred...
Use the lasso to select the couple, deselect for the background then Gaussian blur to your liking.

There is another trick to editing backgrounds of photos, and that is by selecting & Gaussian blurring them to your liking, or simply cloning small pieces out. A few photos above & below show what pictures look like when these techniques are used.

Some photos are so versatile that almost anything can be done to them...
Background selected & Gaussian blurred and the photo was brightened by using levels.
The eyes were also popped by using the magnetic lasso to select just the eye and sharpening with the unsharp mask tool.
The photo was cropped, then taken a step further by replacing the background - no green screen needed!

The most important thing when replacing a background is to take your time. At first it can be quite tricky - and frustrating. It seems especially hard if you only have a lap top touch pad... But don't worry! You'll get the hang of it relatively quickly. I still only have a touch pad - no mouse, so don't think it takes any special equipment other than a steady hand to get a similar effect of these pictures.

This is a great technique for getting rid of a busy background...
A really great photo after a few simple edits.
It was cropped, brightened with levels, background selected & Gaussian blurred.

Finally, don't be afraid to combine techniques you've already learned with the new stuff... You should still correct the brightness & color of your photo by manually adjusting the levels in Photoshop. You can also still get rid of the shadows by using the clone tool - you can even extend parts of clothing or add hair with the clone tool.

Cloning out the background - among other edits...
Makes a professional shot look even more so.

Don't hesitate to let me know if you have any questions about replacing or fixing backgrounds. If there's something you just can't seem to get yourself, send it to me & let me have a crack at it. I'm always more than glad to help in any way I possibly can.

I hope this information has been useful, and please let me know if there's anything you'd like to learn more about. Whether it be Photoshop or any other aspect of picture editing, I'd love to know what you want to know!


Green Screen - What's it mean???

I'm sure many of you out there have heard the term "Green screen" if not in a photography sense, then definitely in the world of videography. (You may have even heard it called a Blue screen or Chroma key - I'll touch on these terms in a moment)

Weather forecasters have long stood in front of one of these screens while the images of maps, temperatures, and precipitation are magically transmitted to our TV's.

Out of all truthfulness, there's not really much 'magic' to it. Way back in the 1940's films began using these techniques to create special effects and wipes (a way to transition from one scene to another) According to Wikipedia, "Chroma key [also called color keying, colour-separation overlay (CSO; primarily by the BBC), greenscreen, and bluescreen] is a technique for mixing two images or frames together, in which a color (or a small color range) from one image is removed (or made transparent), revealing another image behind it."

What's this mean to you & me? It basically means that if we use a big green or blue backdrop in our pictures, we can replace that background with just about anything. Why green or blue? Since most of us have a reddish skin tone, green and blue are just about the furthest colors from us. And we can end up with some very great pictures - as long we do it correctly.

Pictured below, you can see what a green screen looks like - it's a HUGE piece of brightly colored green canvas, that's typically held up with poles & clamps. It's not easy to set up yourself - especially when you're first starting out. And the sheer size of the canvas makes it a bit cumbersome.

But there are several keys to successful green screen photo shoot...

~ Be aware of what your subject plans on wearing. If the "green screen" thing is something they want, make sure they are fully aware that what they wear is very important. By letting your clients know ahead of time, they can avoid colors in their outerwear that are similar to the color of the background.
~ Make sure the lighting across the green screen is perfectly even along your entire shooting area. The more even you can get your lighting on the background, the easier & faster it will be to cut out, then paste in a new background.
~ Have your subject stay as far away from the backdrop as possible, while still being in/on the green screen. This also ties in to the shadows... Try to avoid them completely if at all possible. Though this isn't a huge crisis, it definitely makes cutting out the green screen background much easier.
~ Use lighting behind on your subject if possible. I believe this is called rim light... It tends to yield better contrast between your subject and the green background. It also prevents a green 'glow' from the backdrop onto your subject.

Below are a couple of examples of green screen photos that have been completely manipulated...
Original shot (SOOC - Straight out of the Camera)

Green screen background selected & cut out.

This layer has been duplicated & placed on white background to what the photo looks like with no background.

Green screen background replaced with butterfly background

Original picture (SOOC)

Green screen background selected & cut out.

This layer has been duplicated & placed on white background to what the photo looks like with no background. The picture has also been placed into a portrait orientation to fit the background chosen...

Background replaced with baseball background

In this picture, the little boy's pants have also been lengthened by using the cloning tool in combo with the bandaid tool.

As you can probably see, there are a few disadvantages I faced with these photos... They were a bit washed out, and there were still hints of green around the kids (especially the little girl since she was actually laying on the green screen), which is why a dark or greenish background was used to replace the green screen.

The reason the kids were so washed out is because I was still shooting my camera entirely on automatic mode when these pictures were taken. Shooting on auto is NOT a bad thing... The only problem here is that the camera 'saw' all that green (which is actually quite dark without using extra lights) and overcompensated for it.

My apologies for not providing many examples of photos manipulated with green screen technology. To be perfectly honest, I tried it - many times - and found that it just wasn't right for me. I have figured out how to replace almost any background, and I've even found that it's sometimes just easier to do it without the green screen. But don't let me steer you one way or the other; try out green/blue screen shooting if you think it's right for you. That's the beauty of photography: everyone has personal likes & dislikes, strengths & weaknesses.

Tomorrow, I'll revisit the replacing of backgrounds without a green screen. And I'll provide many examples of photos with their non-green screen backgrounds replaced.

**NOTE - This was not actually my green screen. A friend of mine was kind enough to let me borrow it, and for that I am very grateful. It seems that I don't really need one. Or at least I don't want one...!


Wordless Wednesday ~ Summer Sunsets

Just a few of the beautiful summer sunsets I've been very blessed to see - and photograph!

Thank you all SO much for stopping by! I truly appreciate everyone who stops by for a visit. Leave me a comment to let me know you were here, and I will most certainly return the favor. But don't feel obligated, by any means! I do like to know who comes here, but what I love most is getting to see the wonderful work of so many other talented individuals.

I hope that everyone has a very Happy Wordless Wednesday - Take care and may God Bless you all!

**For more Wordless Wednesdays, please visit the Wordless Wednesday headquarters and 5 Minutes for Mom**


Photoshop Techniques: "Liquify"

Under Photoshop's filters, there is a photo-fixer called "Liquify." Basically it allows you to take a photo and completely manipulate it. This means you can make parts of the picture bigger or smaller, swirl areas of the picture, shift parts of the picture, and so much more.

In the following pictures, I'll be showing a couple of examples of what you can do with the Liquifying technique (plus a few of my other photoshop go-to's I use in many pictures)

In these two pictures, you can see how the arms & waist area of the young woman look smaller in the one below. That was done by liquifying & using the warp tool within that. (There are several tools to choose from when you're in the Liquify screen)
Other adjustments made to the picture include brightening using levels, sharpening parts of the picture, and gaussian blurring the background of the photo.

It takes a lot of time (especially at first) but through Liquifying a picture, you can achieve almost any effect you can imagine...

In the following photos, I'm going to show how even a facial expression can be changed [slightly] and still look real. (The only other photoshopping to the pictures below is that parts of the face have been dodged to make the shaddows less obvious and the levels have been adjusted to make the photo brighter & better colored)

The original

By using the liquify tool, I raised her eyebrows up and widened the eyes. Then I adjusted the curve of her mouth and cheeks to make it appear that she's almost smiling.

I then also took the bandaid tool to erase a couple of her cheek lines. This made her look even closer to happy.

The one thing we must be careful not to do when liquifying is to go too far...

You can see what I mean in this photo:
From a distance it doesn't look too bad, but if you click on it (to see it bigger & up close) it looks completely fake.

There is no "STOP!" signal that photoshop will give us to keep a photo from being overprocessed, so be careful. We'll re-visit overprocessing again soon & touch on other areas where this is easy to do as well.


DPS - Assignment Time!

I am a very faithful reader & learner from DPS (aka Digital Photography School Blog), and now I'm going to also try to be a faithful participator...

Each week, DPS has a new assignment - a contest of sorts for everyone who wants to participate (and yes, the winner & runners up are always announced) It's always something to get the wheels turning, and also to see how versatile & talented their 'students' are.

If I would have been on the ball, I would have participated in last week's assignment: 10 Minutes Away from Home. The pic submitted had to be within a very specific time frame & within a 10 minute travel distance from your home. Though my location is cutting it a bit close on 10 minutes, it was the closest exit off the interstate from my house in this particular direction.

This is the picture I should have submitted...
Overlooking a wildlife preserve just off Boonville/New Harmony road...

There were SO many wonderful photos I got this day! Though I was only in the area for about a half-hour, I snapped at least a hundred pictures. Some more wonderful shots I got this day were...
Fields & lakes along the rolling countryside...

Sunflower fields with beautiful foliage in the background...

And my cute little niece, Maggie!

I took several of my niece & daughter on this trip - I'll show more of those photos after they're edited. But for now, I'm going to concentrate on this week's assignment in DPS...

Assignment: X-tych

What's that mean? It means that you can pick the number of pictures (up to 7) that you'd like to turn into a mosaic. So that means diptych, triptych or anything up to 7 pictures formed into a single image with multiple panels. Don't worry - if you're still confused, they provide links to some great -tych info & even a mosaic-maker.

So, that's what I'll be doing in the next day or two. Going though all the pictures I've shot since July 23rd & find some great ones to put into a mosaic. I must remember to include all exif info (like camera, lens, date taken, ISO, shutter speed and aperture) and though I'll most likely do a post here on it as well, I'll certainly upload my final product upon Flickr.


Photographing Pets & Kids

For me, the hardest things about photographing pets & kids are: you can't control them, and they're unpredictable. Yet you - as a photographer - are expected to control the uncontrollable and predict how to get great shots of them.

But how???

Kids and pets are typically very busy, moving targets. Though once in a while you'll come across a gold-mine of a shoot (so easy that you're almost tempted to offer another session for free... almost), most of the time things aren't a cake-walk.

Here are some wonderful tips & hints to make your Photo Session go as smoothly as possible...

If the kiddo is upset/crying, take a break from being a photographer & just be "fun".

Let them show you a favorite toy or a new trick. More importantly, let them forget you're trying to get them to do something they don't want to (even if that's just smiling or sitting still)

Don't worry if they don't want to look at you.

Two words: Stranger Danger. Just let them get comfortable with you & the camera... Just give them time & space. This is one reason it's good to allow plenty of time for these shoots.

You can even make the pictures fun for them by playing 'movie star' or funny ways or saying "Cheese!" With really little ones, as a parent for help on tricks (like helping them 'walk')

They won't sit still

Kids like to be on the go. Don't worry about always having the camera on them, no matter where they are. Instead, be prepared for their next move. I know it's hard (maybe impossible) to anticipate where they'll go... But if you can do that, you'll get a good photo.

Want a sure-fire way to get them to go where you want them to? Bring along a colorful toy, a closed box, or an empty Halloween candy tote. Curiosity almost always gets the best of them, and you know right where they're headed.

You can't get them to look at you

No worries - some of the best pictures are taken without looking directly into the lens. You'll get tons of facial expressions - and maybe even smiles - if you're not constantly saying, "No - Look here!"
They move, you cut off their head

It's called clever cropping - you meant to do that! And you'll probably crop the picture down even further.

They reach for your camera

Some of the best shots are completely unintentional/unplanned. Though you can't get any pictures when your lens is totally covered with a hand or nose, you can get some really cute shots when your camera's just out of reach. When the kiddo (or puppy tries) to go for the camera, roll with it!

Next up are some tips geared for pet-photography...

Give them something to play with.
Though your camera strap isn't necessarily the best idea, it sure makes for a cute shot!

Have the puppy's owner play 'tug' with him/her.

Or just let the puppy chew around on its toy.

Catch him off guard...

Catch him with a zoom lens...

Or catch him getting sleepy.

And finally, the best shot for the pet's 'mom' or 'dad'...
Playing with his owner

Though on the move & tilted, this is one of my favorite shots - it would really be killer cropped/edited!

Finally, don't worry. All your hard work will pay off...
A puppy & the pretty little girl both sitting still, nicely posed...

Photographing the 'impossible' - that shot deserves an award! Kidding.

Although it can be tricky, it's definitely possible to get both a young child and a young pet to cooperate - together - for a picture. It takes some help from a parent (or the like), treats (or the promise of), and possibly some very goofy antics to keep them amused.

Just keep an open mind and time frame, and you're bound to get some wonderful pictures from pets and kids.

(**Note: ALL of the above pictures are SOOC shots. I challenged myself to take photos as if I were using film - no post editing allowed. Though they could be a little brighter/crisper/better cropped with editing, they're not half-bad as they are. Challenge yourself to get better SOOC shots as well!)