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That’s a Wrap on The Best Workshop Ever!

We just wrapped

on an amazing four day workshop here in Arizona where we had 7 students who spent every waking hour learning, practicing and talking about photography. We had styled photo shoots on location here in Chandler and in the breathtaking Sedona red rocks. We maintained a small class size to ensure that each student was given all the attention they needed and deserved, and each one of our students have the very real possibility of having their images published in the national magazine, Pristeen, who provided a vast crew of models, hair and makeup professionals and stylists.

PJared PLatt Photography and Workflow Sedona

I may be tooting my own horn, but I am absolutely certain that there is no photographic workshop experience like the one my students just had. I was so impressed with the improvement of each and every photographer over the course of the four days of intense instruction. Our first styled photoshoot put each photographer into the fire. With a few hours of instruction on the equipment they would use, they all were put into very challenging and critical situations that required their utmost attention. Then, over the course of the next two days, amidst workflow lectures, we critiqued and edited their images. Then, we spent an afternoon working with their cameras and flashes again in preparation for the big Sedona shoot on the final day.

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Students that struggled on day one to get the shot, were creating beautiful images by the fourth day. I was so pleased to see each and every one of them creating images all on their own that were exponentially better than what they were attempting to make on our first day of class. Of course, I was not surprised.

My Arizona Photography and Workflow Workshop was designed to create success. I gave my students a year’s worth of university level photo education in four days, and I created a circumstance under which they could succeed. We limited our class size to make sure that I could spend a lot of time with each and every student, and each student spend the majority of the class at the controls. Unlike most photography workshop, my students were not stuck watching me shoot. Instead they were thrown into a real live, active magazine photoshoot with my expert instruction and direction at every step. I knew that they would succeed, because every hour of every day was designed to create lasting success. My students didn’t just see how to create great images, they created them, they were immersed in the process, and now they will return home knowing how to do that on their own!

Students Working Jared Platt Workshop Slide Rock State Park

That is the beauty of the socratic method of teaching. I teach my students how to think and let them experience how it is done, so they will always remember how to achieve success.

A small workshop like this cannot be done without a high price tag, and I can’t thank my students enough for their trust. They took a leap of faith and they found that it paid off. And even the high price tag would not have covered the price of this workshop without our sponsors, who so generously provided the incredible meals as well as providing the equipment and logistical support needed to pull off such a perfect workshop experience.

Finally, we must also thank the folks at Pristeen Magazine. They took a leap of faith that we would be able to take 7 workshop students of pro and enthusiast levels to a level that they would have two full magazine articles full of great images. They are now convinced! But we thank them for putting their trust in us to make this all happen. Not to mention, that Pristeen Magazine funded a full scholarship for our Pristeen Magazine Teen Photographer who joined us on the workshop and is now, at 18 years old, on her way to becoming an accomplished professional photographer. Wait until you see some of her photographs.

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Since all of our photoshoots were for publication, you will not see them now, but in April, after the magazine has published them. I look forward to sharing them with you.

Thank you to your Sponsors:

The Tone Curve Panel Controls Contrast Best

Contrast & Curves

It’s time to get your contrast under control with tone curves.

A large part of photography is judging the various tones that make up an image and deciding where they should be placed in the final presentation of the print. Both in the image display of our cameras and in Adobe Lightroom, we see this tonal distribution visually represented in the histogram.  The simple name for this tonal distribution is “contrast” and as photographers, we are constantly trying to control it.  Reading the histogram and controlling the placement of tones within the image is one of the most important skills a photographer can master.

aspen trees as a contrast example for lightroom curves

We  actively adjust image contrast both when we shoot and in post processing. When we shoot, we do this by judging and manipulating the quantity, quality and direction of light. A softer, more diffuse, less directional light creates less contrast.  Conversely, harder, more directional light creates brighter highlights and leaves darker shadows which equals more contrast.  This is then shown to use on the camera and in Lightroom by way of the histogram.  I constantly hear people say that a good exposure is described on the histogram when there is an even distribution of tones all the way across the graph (like in the image  below), and while this statement is true for the image above and the histogram below, the advice is actually very poor advice.  In reality, a good exposure on the histogram looks like the image it is describing.

well exposed histogram

On a grand scale, fog is the prefect light modifier for reducing contrast.  If only we could command the elements and bring it in whenever we needed it.  Fog has the effect of bouncing light everywhere and filling in all the shadows, thus everything becomes almost equal in value.  No real shadows and no real highlights.  We very rarely need this intense effect, but we do use soft boxes and fill reflectors all the time to help fill in the shadows and even out the difference between the shadows and the highlights.  Pay attention to the histogram describing this image.  When your photograph has no shadows, the histogram should display nothing on the left side of the graph.  A proper exposure will avoid allowing the data to clip on the left (shadows) or the right (highlights) of the histogram, but the graph in between the either edge should be an accurate description of the tones you are seeing in the scene.

swedish soldiers in fog

In photography, the further apart the shadows and the highlights are on the histogram, the higher the contrast will be in the image.  In life, we create contrast by making friends with strange people, or having peculiar pets.  The more peculiar and different the greater the contrast.  I had two dogs growing up, one was a tiny little Cockapoo, the other was a big Golden Lab, who was also the fattest dog in Norther Arizona (he has an award to prove it)!  Just watching them run down the road together was entertaining.  As with Shroder and Uggums (my dogs), the further apart we are in looks or temperament from our companions, the more drastic the contrast will be in our lives, which results in more drama.  This is not to say contrast and drama make the best images.  Low contrast images, like the image above, create a sense of quiet which has equal value.

In the end, our choices in image contrast change the feeling our images produce.  Because of this, post-production really matters and contrast is a critical portion of that.  We use the contrast slider and the tone curve to make these final contrast adjustments. The contrast slider is the simple way to change the contrast in an image, but it is also the least subtle.  It is like using an axe to cut your sandwich.  You will definitely cut the sandwich in two, but you will also cut the plate and most likely the table as well.  If you want to maximize your control over the contrast in your image you need to master the use of the Tone Curve panel.  Take a look at the image below and notice that the contrast slider is left at zero.  The major contrast work is achieved in the tone curves area of Lightroom, both in the Parametric and the Point Curve areas of the Tone Curves Panel.  You can see that there are five different curves at work in this one image.  The lower contrast in the image helps to soften the model’s already soft look.  When you are creating a tone curve for the first time, keep in mind that you should only really need to do this once.  If you like the effect you have created, make a preset for that tone curve to make it simple and efficient to apply your complicated curve in the future.

lightroom curve panels

I have created a short video on Using the Tone Curve Panel in Lightroom to get you started into exploring this powerful tool in Lightroom.  After watching the video, I encourage you to spend some time playing with your images in Lightroom using the Tone Curve pane in the Develop Module, and to get you started, make sure you download the free Tone Curve based presets I have created for you.

Using Tone Curves in Adobe Lightroom

Which tones you emphasize or de-emphasize can vary widely depending on the mood you want to create and where we want the viewer to focus.  I may use dramatic lighting or soft lighting depending on the story I am telling — bright and happy, or dark and moody. However I light my subject, or set my exposure at the camera, I have only told half the story. The other half of the story is told when I open the image in Adobe Lightroom and make adjustments to the image.  That is, as Ansel Adams said, the performance of the score (the capture being the musical score).  We captured the sequence of the notes in our camera, but the way we play them out in post-processing provides infinite possibilities for performance.  Mastering all of your tools (or instruments) is the first step to gaining complete control over your photographic voice.

Post Script:  The contrast control in the tone curves panel is not only the superior place to tweak your contrast, but it is also a better place to create split tones and even cross processing effects.  The power in the tone curve is quite intense.  For this reason I use the tone curve in a lot of my Lightroom Presets.  Let me get you started by giving you a small set of three great Classic Black and White Lightroom Presets that use the tone curve as the basis for their effect.

Cover image for free classic black and white lightroom presets

Are you a high contrast or low contrast shooter? Do you like big drama, or subtle dreamy tones? How do you achieve your signature look with contrast? I’d love to hear from you.

Master Photo Culling with Positive Selection

Most of you know that I select and process images in Adobe Lightroom. Although I have been using Lightroom from the day it came out as a Beta, I didn’t always have that luxury. For many years it was a hodge-podge of solutions. Each piece of software had its own unique skill set, and early on, Photoshop and Bridge did not even recognize a RAW photo file. So, it was one program to cull (select) my images, one to adjust, one to retouch and one to organize and yet another to deliver.  As digital photography evolved, Adobe began to make all of these processes available in one piece of software, and then… Lightroom was born. But as I traveled and taught seminars, I observed one common flaw in most photographers’ workflow; so in spite of technological advancements, photographer’s remained in the stone ages.  The flaw was an ignorance of a principle I call Positive Selection.

Expert Photo Culling with Positive Selection

Positive Selection is simply the act of recognizing the good images and ignoring the mediocre and poor images, to follow the same principles that are used in the act of “selecting” at the camera.  That is, we never reject images, we only select. This is the method we use in the camera, and we are generally good at it, so you are already able to own this method of selection, you just need to embrace it. In fact, if you are not already following this method and you try my five steps to Expert Photo Culling with Positive Selection,  I guarantee you will immediately cut your selection time by half.

The book Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, is about how well trained intuition is a powerful tool. Gladwell illustrates that many “choices that seem to be made in an instant-in the blink of an eye… actually aren’t as simple as they seem.”  In fact, he argues that to the trained mind, these choices are made up of the instant recognition of many minute indicators which add up to intuitive knowledge. Your intuitive mind processes these factors in the background and uses them to make snap decisions that are, nonetheless, correct. In my studio, I use a principle that I call Expert Photo Culling with Positive Selection to harness this intuitive power to make selecting images quick, easy and pleasant. You too can train yourself to use your intuitive artistic nature and take the dread out of image selection.

The noted author Arthur Quiller-Couch coined the phrase “Murder Your Darlings.” He meant that as a writer (artist, poet, photographer) we have to often reject parts of our work that we love because we recognize that they don’t help tell the story. This is an essential process that results in much better work, but it shouldn’t be the whole focus of editing. For many, the editing process is a painful experience. It involves hitting the Reject button one by one and killing our darlings till only the very best images remain. I will show you why this approach is not only slow and ineffectual but also degrading and discouraging as an artist. Also, I’ll illustrate how you can achieve the same results much more quickly and effectively while training your photographic eye to make better intuitive decisions even while shooting.

Five Steps to Expert Photo Culling with Positive Selection

  1. DON’T GET REJECTED: Avoid using the Reject Button (X). Use the Pick button (P) instead. Imagine, an editing session involving 5000 images where you want to deliver 10%. In this example, if you use the Pick button to choose the best 500 images instead of the Reject button to reject 4500, that’s 4000 fewer button clicks, saving you 60 minutes of click time alone, to say nothing of the agonizing decision making time it takes to bring yourself to pull the trigger and off each one of those 4000 little darlings!
  2. SEE IN YOUR PERIPHERY: Use Survey Mode to compare a number of images at one time instead of just one at a time. I find that viewing 6 at a time is what I can effectively compare on a 27” monitor. Would you rather look at 5000 individual images or 1000 groups of 5 images? You will find another instant speed increase by surveying a group of images at one time.
  3. FASTER AND BETTER: Comparing 6 similar images at once in the survey mode will allow the best images to jump out at your already trained intuition and because your mind is making these intuitive decisions based on comparison, surprise, surprise… you will also make better decisions.  And with practice, it will become easier to do and you will get even faster.  As a bonus, this becomes a training exercise for better framing and decision making at the camera.  Faster and better, is definitely better!
  4. YOU DESERVE ONLY THE BEST: In every group of six (or however many you choose to view simultaneously), choose only the best. Force yourself to limit your selection to 1 or 2.  Don’t fall into the trap of selecting more.  More is definitely less when it comes to similar images! (Watch for my upcoming blog post on The Economics of  Images). Let yourself feel the images, they will almost choose themselves, like they do while you are shooting. You need to learn to trust that instinct, and you will if you practice and don’t give up on this idea. Only check focus or scrutinize images that deserve your attention, the rest don’t matter and will only cost you time.  There you are, saving time again and murdering your darlings without really even knowing it.  Don’t feel bad… I never do.
  5. CLOSURE IS FOR BAD RELATIONSHIPS: Give up the idea that you need to have closure on every image. You do not need to build a coffin for every dead image and you are certainly not obligated to deliver every half-tolerable image you shoot to your client. It’s your job to deliver the best images. The ones that tell the story best. The ones that stand out. The other images are automatically rejects because they were never selected. Don’t try to relate this to your high school senior prom, or your grammar school crush, otherwise, you get all depressed about the rejection in your past.  This may sound harsh, but you are not only being hired as a photographer, but you are an editor as well.

When I asked my wife to marry me, she rejected every other potential suitor by saying yes to me. She didn’t open the phone directory and call every other man in town and tell them they were rejected. They knew they were rejected by the fact that she married me. She didn’t need to rub it in. At the end of the day, it’s a numbers game. Giving your attention to images that aren’t standing out is just a waste of clicks and screen time.

This approach might be uncomfortably foreign to you. If so, I am even more excited for you to try it. I want you to experience the life-changing power of these principles. They will take the pain out of editing and strengthened your powers of perception.

Furthermore, if you stop focusing on your fails and focus on your wins and you will be much more connected to your inner voice. When you are shooting, you will begin to see this same positive selection mentality control what you point your camera at and when you click the shutter button. Because what is photography at its very core?  It is the act of selection!

Positive Selection will speed your image editing process and train you to be a better more intuitive photographer.

Do you have any editing tips that have made your image selection faster or more pleasant?  Do you have a favorite kind of music that gets you moving?  If you are about to mention your favorite TV show you like to watch while editing, please think about that… yep, you see the problem with that?  Good.  Now post away, I’d love to hear your responses.

Also, be sure to click the “Also Post on Facebook” checkbox when you comment. And if you have a friend who needs an intervention, make sure to tag them in your Facebook post, we will all help them through their issues.

Look out for my coming PDF download on the Ultimate Data Security System, coming soon.

Avoid Data Loss and Corruption with Good Card Hygiene

As a professional photographer, doing everything in your power to avoid data loss or corruption is part of your job. Many years ago, I sent my film to the lab and waited a day or two on pins and needles while it was being processed, hoping nothing bad would happen to that film. In many local photo labs, complex chemical processes were often overseen by pimply faced kids with little to no experience and shipping film to a extreme pro lab was just as scary because of the transit. Occasionally, the ball got dropped and film got destroyed.  I once had a lab rip a roll of film from end to end, leaving one usable frame out of 36 (I have no idea how). More frequently though, photographers would set their cameras incorrectly, with no way to tell for sure what they had done, until the film came back with  nothing on it. Solution? Reshoot.

If you shoot weddings like I do, you know that is just not an option.

Avoid Data Loss with Good Card Hygiene

Of course, some photographers still shoot film, or have gone back to it (don’t get me started). While more reputable labs, have a professional overseeing the chemistry with very few mistakes, photographers are still waiting on pins and needles for FedEx or UPS to safely deliver their film to those reputable professional labs (and no, there isn’t a reputable lab in every large city, despite their claims). It is hard to argue that we haven’t taken a major step forward with digital technology. Today you can fire the shutter once, get two duplicate images on two separate cards, look at the image on the back of your camera to make sure it’s right, download it to a RAID 1 hard drive (I use the CRU Tough Tech Duo) which makes a fourth duplicate instantaneously, then upload a backup to a cloud service which makes a series of backups across its servers throughout the world.  And all of this can be done before your assistant can drive to the nearest FedEx, or local Film Lab.

Even with these advances, things can go horribly wrong. Only now, instead of losing a roll of film with 36 exposures, there’s the potential to lose hundreds and hundreds on one card. And when you capture tens of thousands of images in a month, it’s only a matter of time before fate catches up with you!  Fortunately there are a few simple steps you can follow to protect yourself from digital catastrophe.

Ten Tips to Avoid Data Loss

  1. MORE CARDS: Always carry more than enough cards for the entire shoot. Downloading and reusing cards at a shoot is just begging for trouble. This is so basic that it is hardly worth mentioning, but if you are guilty of it, you need to stop and seriously re-evaluate your professional practices.
  2. FORMAT UP FRONT: Another simple way to avoid data loss is to format all your cards before you start shooting. I format all of the cards I am using before I leave the studio. That way, if I find a card with no capacity, I know I shot it that day.
  3. INSTITUTE A SHOT SYSTEM: Create and adhere to a system for designating full cards. I use a plastic, hard sided weather resistant card case. When I load it, I put the blank cards in face up and after they are shot, I put them in face down.  And it goes without saying that everyone on your team must follow the same practices, so there are no accidents.
  4. KEEP YOUR CARDS CLOSE: To avoid lost or stolen cards, I keep my case for the day in my front pocket or in a sling bag.  Under no circumstances is it professional to set your cards down, place them loosely in a coat pocket, or leave them in a “safe place” off your your immediate person. Think of that case of cards as being worth – like – your whole professional career.
  5. DO NOT DELETE IN CAMERA: Never delete images in the camera. This is just begging for data corruption. A freshly formatted card makes all of it’s capacity available to the camera for storage. Once you delete a file, the camera starts breaking images up and writing them to the disk in unpredictable ways — a little here, a little there. This can have a negative effect on disk indexes and data trees.
  6. USE QUALITY CARDS: Use quality CF and SD cards. I use Sandisk Extreme Pro 120MBS UDMAZ 16 or 32 GB cards, depending on which camera I am shooting. I like to limit the number of files a card can store to around 250. Sandisk cards have never failed me yet, but if you have a trusted brand, stick with it! Cheep is not worth it.  Don’t go looking for random deals on cheep cards.
  7. SHOOT MULTIPLE COPIES: If you shoot with a camera body that allows for simultaneous SD and CF capture, take advantage and shoot full-size RAW files to both cards. This is probably the best overall system to avoid data loss (I use the Canon EOS 5D Mark III). It takes only an extra few seconds to switch cards, but the first time you lose a card, you will bless the extra time you took for added security.
  8. SEPARATE THE COPIES: Once the shoot is over separate your primary and backup cards and store your backup cards in a different location. When I am traveling, I keep one copy in the card case on my person and the duplicate cards in the hotel safe. When working from my studio, I take my backups home until the shoot is in the can. In the can means, I have copied the files to my workstation, backed them up and confirmed they are free from corruption by reviewing them in Lightroom.
  9. WAIT TO REUSE THE CARDS: Don’t ever reuse cards until you know your data is secure.
  10. NO SECOND CHANCES: My final step to avoid data loss is to immediately dispose of any card that you suspect as unreliable. The minute I suspect a card is having any issues whatsoever, I download backup and confirm the data and put the card out of commission.  This is done by drawing a large black X with a sharpie marker and once the job is completely confirmed, the card is broken in half and thrown away.  If I become suspicious of a card while I am shooting, I pull it out or commission on the shoot, mark it and start fresh with a new card.  Do not continue shooting on or working with a card that even hints at having an problem.

By maintaining complete control over my cards and by following these steps to Good Card Hygiene, I am able to say that I have never lost or misplaced a single client image in my entire career.  This is because I am fanatical about my adherence to these basic rules and my card hygene.  Those who do not follow them are doomed to suffer the consequences of loosing their data and the disappointment that is sure to follow.

If you have additional techniques to avoid data loss to add to this list, or card brand recommendations, post them below for everyone’s benefit. Please post your comments to Facebook as well.

Look out for my next post on how to reduce your image selection time by more than half through the simple technique I call Positive Selection. Additionally, look out for my coming info graphic on The Ultimate Image File Security Workflow — never lose data again!

-Jared

Profoto B2 on Location in Arizona

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The Profoto B2 is the most versatile compact lighting solution in my arsenal. When you are in the studio, there are a lot of great choices for lighting systems, but for quality, durability and ease of use, Profoto lights are unbeatable. They have a well earned reputation as world-class lights. Not too long ago, Profoto came out with a powerful, portable, battery powered monohead called the Profoto B1. These lights are fantastic for any size photo shoot. They are radio controlled from your hotshoe, using the Profoto – Air Remote TTL-C — syncing and changing power settings from your camera is a snap. These lights have been well thought out on every level and till now have been my first choice for location lights.

This year, the light shaping geniuses introduced the Profoto B2 lighting system.

Not as powerful as the B1 these little dynamos still pack plenty of punch for most portrait applications, and they accept the full range of Profoto light shaping tools. What makes these lights very attractive is that by moving away from the monohead model to a small strobe head with a battery-pack, Profoto has made an incredibly light and versatile little unit.

The Profoto B2 is small enough that you can even mount it on camera if you don’t want to bring an assistant or use a stand. My favorite setups include a small softbox or a large silver umbrella, wielded by an assistant. Which I use depends on how much light I require. The Silver umbrella is great if I need to overpower the sun whereas the softbox works best when the light is even and I want to create direction for added drama, but still maintain a soft feel. Two heads with white umbrellas on stands is another easy setup for large groups and can really make a dim situation bearable.

The Duce on Location with the Profoto B2

 

Finally the Profoto B2 lights work seamlessly with my B1 lights and all of my Profoto lights are controlled through my Profoto – Air Remote TTL-C which sits on the hotshoe of my camera. With my Profoto B2 lights as my first go-to choice for many situations and my B1 lights in backup for when I require more power, I truly have enough lights to shoot for a day on location and never plug in. And, I can do so with a rapidity and efficiency that makes shooting a joy.

While this is an unsolicited review, I am sponsored by Profoto and Profoto will be providing complete lighting kits for my Photography and Workflow Workshop attendees to use on location. I am excited for my students to get to use this equipment to make some amazing images.

Meet Your Bonus Instructor with a Lesson on Film

I’d like to introduce you to a very special photo instructor who will be making a regular appearance on my blog and Youtube and Vimeo channels as well as making several appearances at my workshop this February in Arizona.  For all of you film and film look lovers out there, she has put together a little lesson on making pictures with a HOLGA camera!

Introducing Indiana!

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Join Indiana and me at my workshop this February 17-20, 2016 in beautiful Arizona for a life changing photographic experience with four full days of photography and workflow education.  This is where you will learn to get better images, and deliver them faster so you can focus on what really matters in your life: family, God, you, marketing, more photos… you pick!

LEARN MORE and REGISTER

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Classic Black and White Presets

Classic Black and White Preset:

My first experience in photography, probably the moment I fell in love with it, was when my sister taught me how to develop a black and white print in the glow of the red lamps.  I watched a blank piece of paper slowly drop below the developer and waited, not knowing what to expect.  Suddenly, splotches of black began to grow across the face of the paper, like someone had spilled ink and it was running slowly across the face of the print.  But the inky spill gave way in areas to a relief of white where the lamp of the enlarger had not exposed the paper and I began to see an image appear.  Honestly, I don’t recall what the first image was that I saw printed.  I am sure it was a meaningless high-school yearbook photo, but the experience is forever burned (exposed and fixed) in my memory.  In honor of those experiences in the black and white darkroom, I have created three Adobe Lightroom classic black and white presets for you to enjoy.  They won’t give you the magical experience I had in the darkroom, but they will give you the beautiful tones I was able to create after years of study and practice.

Of course, unlike in the darkroom, with digital images, we start with a color image.  The images I am using here is the original color RAW image directly from Lightroom.  What you will see in each subsequent image is a one click application of one of the three black and white lightroom.

Black and White Curves Lightroom presets example image - original color version

 

Classic Black and White Preset:

One thing that was lost in the digital world of high contrast, smooth, textureless images and poppy colors and has only been brought back by digital nostalgia, was the beauty of seeing all the zones in a black and white print on fiber paper.  If you don’t know what I am talking about, Ansel Adams (I sure hope the name rings a bell) developed a method for seeing and printing identifiable zones from pure black to pure white (Zones 0-10).  High contrast prints on glossy or pearl paper could never really exhibit all of those zones because they would invariably skip a zone here or there and head directly from black to light grey or white.  This was something my film students would get a bad grade for doing, and now almost every photographer on the planet does daily because they are in love with the contrast knob in Lightroom and they print only to glossy or pearl papers.  Well, I have created a Black and White Lightroom Preset for you that will take you back to the Classic Black and White era, and if you have a proper exposure, you will feel the the beauty of a full tonal range black and white print on beautiful fiber paper, even if you are using a pearl surface paper.

Black and White Curves Lightroom presets example image - classic black and white

 

 

Ultra Contrast Black and White Preset:

And for those of you who still want your contrast, you can get your fix with a truly high contrast black and white preset that comes from a place of subtlety and beauty rather than the brutish, blunt force of the contrast slider.  That’s right, there are other places that provide much better contrast than the slider that bares the name!  The tone curve is where contrast was born, the contrast knob is just a cheap imitation!  Well, give it a whirl and see what you think.  I’ve also added some rich and toothy grain to complete the look that you might get when you push your B&W film (which is where you would see such contrast emerging).  I like to think of it as a bit of a TMAX grain.  It always felt a bit like sandpaper.  Very beautiful sandpaper.

Black and White Curves Lightroom presets example image - ultra contrast black and white

Toned Black and White Preset:

Finally a bit of warm toned black and white for those who can’t stay away from color.  Now in the olden days of film, we bought warm tone paper, or cool tone paper.  Or we dropped our silver prints in a bath of sepia, or selenium toner.  This was very different then adding a wash of color over the top of our prints.  True print toning doesn’t stain the paper, it stains the silver (the dark parts of the print), which means that the paper stays white while the shadows change colors and do so a rate somewhat proportional to the amount of silver that is congregating together to make a deeper shadow.  The easiest way to accomplish a toned print in Lightroom is to add color to the shadows in the Tone Panel.  But I have taken you into a deeper, more robust realm… the tone curve.  Oh, yes, it seems I am in there a lot.  It is a very powerful tool.  Here I can change the response of each color channel to respond to the tone curve independently.  This give me complete control over the colors and allows me to create subtle toners that create depth and contrast in my toned black and white prints.  And I give you a taste of a warm toned preset from my upcoming collection of toned black and whites.  Don’t just use it.  Study it and play with it.  Get to know the Tone Curve panel in Lightroom.

Black and White Curves Lightroom presets example image - classic sepia toned black and white

Learn More About Lightroom Tone Curves:

Each of these presets are heavily based in the Tone Curve pane in the Lightroom Develop module.  To learn more about using the Tone Curve, make sure to watch this free video about using Lightroom’s Tone Curve pane.

Cover image for free classic black and white lightroom presets

Sign up now for three free Classic Black and White Presets

Custom Camera Settings – Don’t Miss a Shot

Using custom camera settings can mean the difference between getting the shot at just the right moment, or missing it entirely. One important distinction between a skilled photographer and a person taking snapshots is the ability to rapidly adjust to changing lighting conditions. Pros also develop a second-nature ability to properly adjust their camera. Being prepared to shoot in all sorts of lighting conditions takes planning and practice. One of the ways to ensure that you are ready to shoot when the action is happening is to make use of custom camera settings.

Weddings are especially challenging because of all of the different environments you shoot in. Take for example a church. Inside the church, you may or may not be allowed to use a flash. The stage might be brightly lit where the audience is only dimly lit. There may be windows or not. Certain events happen very quickly and depending on which direction you are facing to get the action, you might need a different exposure mode ie shutter, or aperture priority or manual; you might need flash compensation, or a different iso. Making all of these changes in the heat of shooting, every time you turn around is distracting and time consuming. the distraction might be enough to cause you to miss the first kiss or the bride and groom coming down the aisle.

Custom Camera Settings Prevent Errors

Custom Camera Settings Make setting your camera a snap

Imagine you are shooting a wedding in a church. One great use of custom camera settings in this scenario is to come to the church early and scout your shots. Turned toward the podium, set your camera to the settings that work best for that environment. Using your camera’s menu, set that as custom setting one. On my camera, a Canon 5D Mark III I choose that custom setting using the c1 position on the top left dial. Now, turn back toward where the audience will be seated and set your camera exposure settings for that direction — set this as custom setting two. For setting three you may choose to set your camera for when the bride and groom exit the church with the dark church entrance behind them.

Custom Camera Settings mean fast accurate exposures

Custom Camera Settings Include Pretty Much Every Setting in your Camera

You can set pretty much anything you want including file size, raw or jpeg, focus mode, drive and silent or high-speed shutter mode. Make sure everything is exactly the way you want it when you set your custom setting. Especially the manual, aperture or shutter speed priority modes. These three modes are really the only thing you can’t change within the custom setting after it has been created. Once you have created a custom setting in one of these modes it remains in that mode. That is a manual custom setting an aperture priority custom setting, or a shutter priority custom setting. Once you switch to a custom setting, however, you can change anything else that you want to, like focus point or exposure compensation. The custom setting acts as a starting point and you can adjust for environmental conditions from there.

As with any camera technique practice brings mastery. Spend time creating custom settings and working with them. You will find that you are better prepared to capture those rapidly changing situations. I like to be ready and never miss a shot so custom settings are an important part of my professional tool bag.

Equipment List:

  1. Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Linking Speed-lights for Dramatic Photography

Linking Speed-lights together is a fantastic way to increase the volume of your shot, dramatically emphasise your subject and tell a better story. When shooting events, frequently you are in a place with poor lighting. It’s your job as a photographer to make your subject look amazing no matter what the available light is like. This video will show you the basics of linking your speedlights to all fire in sync with your camera and how they can be controlled from your master speedlight.

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Shooting receptions and parties can be a lot of fun. There is usually a ton of action not to mention poignant emotions like love, and humor. Lot’s of shots from these events look like snapshots – overly contrasty and lit from a single source. Bouncing light off a wall or ceiling helps, but can only take you so far toward your ultimate goal of rich vibrant images. By placing speedlights at various points around the room you can greatly enhance the drama  of your shots.

Try linking speedlights to create different effects.

Hair-lights separate the subject from the background, cross-lights bring out detail by building contrast; background-lights fill in the background adding it to the story — especially in large open environments; and fill-lights soften the light on subjects, adding to their beauty. You can use a number of tools to place the lights where you want them, including a variety of stands and wall mounts. A photograph taken while linking speedlights properly will emphasize the natural drama of, say, a bride and groom’s first dance.

Link Speedlights for great reception lighting

Start with a master speedlight on your camera rather than a transmitter only. This will provide syncing capability, a backup light in case you have to grab a quick shot away from your setup and equally important the focus assist beam on your speedlight makes it possible for you to focus in very dark environments.

Using the link button, you can slave your disconnected speedlights to your master flash and once you have them linked, from your master flash you can set up your groups, change their mode, or turn them on and off. When shooting an actual event like a wedding reception, plan ahead for your most important moments such as cutting the cake or tossing the  bouquet. Discuss with the bride or DJ where these events will happen and plan your vantage and lighting accordingly.

Link Speedlights for amazing drama in dark locations

The best way to become skilled at linking speedlights is to get ahold of a few speedlights and go out and practice with them. This video shows you how to set up your speedlights to be in sync with each other, but being ready to shoot requires rapid deployment and changes to the settings. So, once your lights are set up, familiarize yourself with rapidly changing the settings on multiple lights. Learn to turn them up or down and on or off light – that way you can adjust or disable any lights that are causing you problems, or turn up lights that are making an effect you want to emphasise. Practice, practice, practice is the key to success with this technique. Pretty soon, making adjustments becomes natural, and you will see a significant increase in the drama and beauty of your photographs. Your audience will ask you again and again “how did you do that?” and “how come my shots don’t look like that?” and that, my friend is what makes you a pro.

Equipment List:

      1. Canon 600RT Speedlite
      2. Yongnuo Wireless Radio Trigger for Speedlights
      3. Tether Tools Rapid Mount SLX Speedlight Wall Mount System
      4. Tether Tools RapidMount Cold Shoe Elbow Mount
      5. Think Tank Urban Disguise 10 Bag

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Ben and Alli’s Wedding in Gilbert, Arizona

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Ben and Alli were married in Gilbert, Arizona.  It was a perfect wedding!  So perfect, that I had a very hard time choosing the images for the slideshow.  Enjoy my favorites… and check back again for more of my favorites posted as stills in the blog post.

Slideshow music by Kevin Burdick, courtesy of Triple Scoop Music.