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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.

Lighting a Senior Portrait with the Sun and the Profoto B2

A quick lighting lesson for outdoor portrait sessions.

Devin is an amazing young woman and full of life. Her senior portrait session was a blast for us all. At one point, we were walking from one spot to another (shade to shade – we are in Arizona, after all) and I fell in love with the idea of Devin with her ukulele in this corn field. Cute right? Also very difficult to light naturally, because we are in direct sunlight.

So, I am going to give you the quick recipe for a bright sunlit scenario:

1. Turn your subject away from the sun. This give you a nice rim light to separate her from the background and it keeps her from squinting into the sun. And it keeps her face in her own shadow.

2. Light her with a powerful flash, but NOT from the camera. Our flash is coming from off the left side of the frame, as close to the frame as possible. Lighting her from the side keeps the subject full of volume, rather than flattening her out and looking like an obvious flash. On camera flash is the worst kind of flash.

3. To match the power of the sun, you will need a lot of light from your flash. Whatever flash you have (mine was a Profoto B2) you can increase its power and size by using a deep silver umbrella (on any flash) which will magnify the light by nearly double. So, even if you have a speedlight… you can double its power by using a Profoto Deep Silver Umbrella. Make sure to push the flash all the way into the umbrella.

4. Play with the power of your flash until you have the right mix of ambient light from the sun and flash light from the flash. Notice that we did not lover the ambient light so that everything was dark and rich blue, because it was a bright sunny day. We let it feel that way in the shot and then simply added light on her face to fill in the shadows under the hat and on the entire camera side of her body. But not so bright that we lost the feel of he being in her own shadow.

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Lighting with one light is simple, if you pay attention to and use the light you already have and just use your one additional light to augment the light that already exists.  Don’t fight the light, work with it.  Let God do 90% of the work and you just do the other 10%.

P.S.  Contrary to her look in the behind the scenes photo, Devin was having a good time.  But I think there may have been a bee flying around.

Album Design Software: Smart Albums vs Fundy

Album Design is Intense

Designing albums and books is a intense chore for photographers and requires time, love and skill… and great tools. Well, you can do it without great tools, but then it takes more time, tests your love and tries your skills. With that in mind, I thought I would share my thoughts with you on the latest releases of what I think are the two best album design programs out today.

Fundy v Smart Albums

 

Keep in mind, there are plenty of album companies (like KISS, Leather Craftsmen and Queensbury) who will design your albums for you, and a few independent designers (Align Album Design), who will take this task off your plate for you, if you are willing to let go of it. For those of you who are not, take a few minutes to watch the following set of videos to get my take on the chief differences between Fundy Designer and Smart Albums. Both album design programs are excellent programs, I have decided on a winner, and if you don’t already know which one I choose to use, you will at the end of this blog post.

FULL DISCLOSURE

I am not being paid or compensated by either of the companies for this review, but I have spoken at Smart Albums booth at trade shows. I am also using my own purchased copy of both programs… no freebies. I wanted to run them through their paces, so I bought both of them. I only plan on using one of them for my production. So this is just my honest and independent take on two impressive album design tools.

Starting with Lightroom

Building Album Spreads

Manipulating Album Spreads

Organizing Spreads

Adding Text

Image Editing

Exporting Spreads

Client Proofing

Ordering the Album

Conclusion

This blog post is meant to provide you with a few things to think about before you start comparing album software for yourself.  You may want to add other album production software in the mix, like several online designers that are available.  Hopefully, the items I have discussed here will get you thinking critically about the programs your are considering.  It really does matter what software you choose!  It needs to work with you and not against you.  Whether you enjoy the process will depend on your choice.  So choose well…

Find and Test the Software

Now here is your assignment: go make an album with both pieces of software, think about the items I have discussed and watch for even more differences. Prioritize the good and bad and decide which tool makes you faster, which gives you the most artistic freedom and which lets you enjoy the process. The one you choose should have a good score on all three of those requirements. Then buy the winner and start making albums and books!

Smart Albums

Fundy Designer

 

Madison’s Senior Portraits in Gilbert, Arizona

We spent the morning with Madison in Gilbert, Arizona, photographing her senior portraits. Here are my favorites from the shoot.
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A BIG DEAL! $4000 of Photo Stuff for $99

Information on the Big Deal for photographers

This is a BIG DEAL!

Over thirty photographers and photography companies have come together to give you the BIG DEAL! Look at this list of contributors and items and tell me that $99 isn’t a great price for this. My item alone is worth $110. You will be getting your $99 back over and over again… and you will be helping a good cause at the same time.

20% of your purchase will go to charities like Team Jessie.

Take a look at this list! It is unbelievable… and yet, it is true! Even if you already have my presets, its worth it for all the other goodies you will get.

Lindsay Adler – Designing an Image & Studio Lighting Guide, Subscription to NEW website
Jared Platt – Comprehensive Collection of 400 Lightroom Presets & Lightroom Webinar
Mylio – 1 Year Subscription
Dave Cross – 1 Year Subscription
Tony Sweet – 13 Videos Covering Macro Photography, Texturing, Infrared, Mirroring plus more
Rick Sammon – Master the Art and Craft of Bird Photography Video
Simply Color – Simply Cash
PhotoshopCafe – Photoshop Destination CC LIVE
Lee Varis – Online Course in Mastering Image Creation & Photo Illustration in Photoshop
Bobbi Lane – Posing & Directing Video
Craig Minielly – Retouch Toolkit & BeautyBar Pro set of Actions for Lightroom/Photoshop
Phlearn – PhlearnMethod Bundle, Photoshop 101 & 201, Beginners Guide to Levitation
SharkPixel – Landscape Photography Presets for Lightroom
Lesa Snider – The Skinny Ebooks Series
Scott Wyden Kivowitz – E-Book: Time Is On Your Side: Exploring Long Exposure Photography
Lance Sullivan – Architecture Power Pack of Presets
Tyler Meade – 73 Sports and Commercial Photography Lightroom Presets
Sean Duggan – Photoshop CC Essentials: Selections, Masking & Compositing Video
Nik Pekridis – Video Training Course: Wedding Photography in Action
Gavin Gough – Photographers Workflow: Ebook & Videos
Perfectly Clear – Photoshop and Lightroom Plugins
Cris Duncan – Photography Business Starter Set: Ebooks & Video
Dane Sanders – Fast Track Photographer Audiobook
Andrew S Gibson – Mastering Photography & Understanding EOS Ebooks
ViewBug – 1 Year Membership
Eyefi – 1 Year Cloud Subscription
Peter Eastway – Subscription to Better Digital Photography & Photoshop Layers Class
David Ziser – Ebooks and Training Videos
Stephanie Cotta – Mastering the Art of Newborn Photography
KelbyOne LLC. – KelbyOne Photoshop and Lightroom Creativity Bundle
Richard Sturdevant – SturDaVinci Art Tools Photoshop & Corel Painting Bundle
Photofocus – Develop Great Images in Lightroom & 72 Essays On Photography Ebooks Read More

A Lovely Wedding in Ripe, England

It was sucha pleasure to photograph this wedding in Ripe, England. I loved the village, I loved the wedding and most importantly, I loved my clients and their family.
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Photography by Jared Platt
Wedding location: England
Music by Mindy Gledhill

Photography is Part of the Adventure

I teach destination workshop around the world each year with www.MZed.com that are the most incredible experiences. Photographers of all skill levels come together to learn and to enjoy the art of photography. Professionals and amatures alike, spend time together, learning, traveling, talking, eating and going on little adventures. It is the highlight of the year. This year we will be in Krakow Poland. To join us, sign up with MZed now!
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