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.

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

Story Telling: an Interview with Jared by Blurb Books

This interview with me from Blurb Books just ran via PDN. I thought you might be interested in the content of the interview as well as the great discount for blurb books. Enjoy the interview…

Jared PlattBlurb
Photographer
Spotlight:

Jared Platt

Jared Platt is a commercial photographer, portraitist, and educator based in Arizona who regularly runs workshops and webinars for Profoto and CreativeLive. He’s also an Adobe® Lightroom® devotee and a strong believer in the power of photography to tell stories. When he recently appeared on a CreativeLive segment, he impressed us with his thoughts on music, rhythm, and the photographic story arc.

Why is storytelling so important to you as a photographer?
Photography is storytelling. Some people tell a story in one image, which is always awe-inspiring, and some people tell stories over a series of photographs. But, all photographs have the aim of telling a story. Whenever I am taking a photograph, whether it is at a wedding, on the street, on a commercial shoot, or of a child, I am always looking for the story I want to tell in that one image—or series of images. I have an intense need to tell these stories that I see to everyone who will see my images, because I believe those stories will touch them, matter to them, and make some kind of an impression on them.

How does Lightroom help you with that aspect of your work?
Lightroom is essential to the process of selecting and editing the extreme volume of work I have in front of me constantly. A photo historian, the late Bill Jay, used to remind me that a project (no matter how perfect it was) was of no value until it was completed and available for people to experience. Lightroom helps me get superior work completed efficiently, so I can share it with the world and get busy telling the next story. Companies like Blurb, who connect with Lightroom, have made the process of sharing stories with the world even easier. Producing a masterful photo book is within any photographer’s reach.

How do you use books in your professional life?
As a photographer in the digital age, I transmit images via Facebook, blogs, websites, iPads, and FTP servers. But there is something extremely special about quality paper, printing, and binding. My clients receive physical proof books made by Blurb, which I create directly in Lightroom. I never tire of hearing the exclamations from my clients about how beautiful their books are and how much they love them. Books are also essential in selling my services to future clients. Photo books and magazines are so comfortable and accessible to the client who is relaxing in the studio showroom, and as the client is looking through the book, the book is selling them on my vision and educating them on my style.


Learn More
Whatever your passion—whether you chose it, or it chose you—turn it into a book with Blurb.

Take 20% off any print book order. Use the code PDN11 at checkout.*


And naturally this is related to storytelling…
Making a book takes the opportunity for storytelling to a whole new level. With multiple images spread over days, months, or years, it can come together to make extremely poignant statements. Add titles and graphics and text to the mix and you have limitless opportunities to connect with people and help them see what you see. I think when people say, “This is beautiful,” they are really saying, “I see what you see, and what you see is beautiful.”

How does your personal work differ from your client work?
There is no difference between my personal work and the work I do for my clients. I let one inform and alter the other, so, as my personal work shifts and expands, so does my commercial work. I am simply a visual storyteller. I tell stories about my clients’ lives, products, and events, and I tell stories about my life. I hope they are all interesting to the viewer. If they aren’t, I need to improve.

If money and time were no object, what project would you most want to take on?
I find creative people fascinating. Money and time are always an object and yet I am still on a quest to photograph and interview creative people of all types, from all genres of creativity, to experience their energy, understand their methods, and tell their story. So if money were no object, I would continue full steam ahead telling the story of the creative mind. In a creative way, of course…

At Blurb, we celebrate creativity in all of its myriad expressions. Photographers like Jared embody the creative freedom that our self-publishing platform enables.


Child Life | Jared Platt

Learn more about Jared Platt

> Jared’s website
> Jared’s Child Life book

Photography by Jared Platt


Tell your story with photography in a beautiful book and save

Take 20% off any print book order. Use the promo code PDN11 at checkout.*

Learn More

*Offer valid through December 31, 2014 (11:59 p.m. local time). Valid for printed books only. A 20% discount is applied to your print book product total with no minimum purchase required. Maximum discount is USD $100, AUD $100, CAD $100, EUR €100, or GBP £100 off product total. This offer is good for one-time use, and cannot be combined with volume discounts, other promotional codes, gift cards, or used for adjustments on previous orders.

 

Adobe Lightroom 5 is Here: My Favorite New Features

Adobe Lightroom 5 is here, and it is full of important new features that will increase your post production speed as well as just make you happy while working on your photos!

The most important feature added to Lightroom 5 is the Smart Previews, which makes working on RAW images possible without a connection to the original RAW images.  It also makes working with my post-production house Shoot dot Edit even faster.  There are so many reasons to use smart previews, and you can even print small images or post blog images from the smart previews while your original RAW images are sitting on a drive at home, unconnected…  It is fantastic!

I am going to be sharing my favorite new features for the next few weeks.  Make sure you tune in and follow The Lightroom Podcast to see all of the great new features in Lightroom and how I use them.  Follow me on twitter @jaredplatt to get regular announcements each time I post a new video.  Enjoy.

Need to speed up your post-production?  Spend a week with me in Budapest for the most personalized photography workflow workshop ever.  Learn more at www.budapestmasterclass.com

 

My First Edit on Snapseed Desktop App by NIK Software: Way to Go Guys

Portrait of Children in the Woods in Gilbert Arizona

If you have not used Snapseed on your iPhone or iPad, you are missing out on the best mobile device photography application on the planet. The program is made by NIK Software. The biggest problem with the app was that I could only use it on my mobile device. Well, all of that has changed. Now it is available on the desktop computer on the Mac AppStore. Don’t worry, those of you who are still using the abacus-I mean a PC, it will be coming soon.

This is my second photo made with the desktop application. I love it. It feels just like the mobile app, and it also handles RAW photos.

About the photo: We went out into the pecan groves in Gilbert, Arizona with our good friend Brandt, Brandt Photography to take a family portrait. While we were there, I got this shot of the kids waiting to have their portrait taken in their winter animal hats.

Way to go NIK Software! You make great stuff.

Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography
Location: Gilbert, Arizona

Lightroom Workshops in Phoenix, AZ – January 26, 27, 28

Adobe Lightrom and Photoshop Workshops by Jared Platt

If you have been thinking about taking a Lightroom workshop, this is the time to do it!  The price is right and so is the location.  We are holding three Lightroom Workshops in Phoenix, Arizona on January 26, 27 and 28.  The weather is absolutely perfect here, so if you are from the frozen north, this is the perfect time to get away, thaw out and improve your Lightroom and Workflow skills.

The Workshop Schedule:

January 26 – 4 pm to 8 pm: Intro to Lightroom and Photo Editing – Book Now for ONLY 49$
January 27 – 9 am to 5 pm: The Lightroom Workflow Workshop  – Book Now for ONLY $199
January 28 – 9 am to 5 pm: The Lightroom Workflow Workshop  – Book Now for ONLY $199

BOOK YOUR SEAT NOW!

The Lightroom Workflow Workshop is being held on Friday the 27th and a second session on Saturday the 28th for your convenience.  Choose the one that fits your schedule. If you are new to Lightroom, take the into course on the 26th and add the Lightroom Workflow Workshop to learn even more about Lightroom and how to fit it into your studio or person workflow.

Are you new to digital photography or Lightroom and photo editing?

The January 26th Intro to Lightroom and Photo Editing is a great place to start.

Making Black and White Presets in Lightroom (2 of 2)

Making a Rich Black and White Preset in Lightroom 3 from Jared Platt on Vimeo.

In a previous Lightroom Podcast, I talked about making great black and white images in Lightroom 3. Now, you need to make a great black and white preset in Lightroom, so you will never again have to touch all those sliders. In this follow up video, you will learn to make a intelligently designed preset to add a rich black and white effect to any image at the touch of a button.

See the previous post on making beautiful black and white images in Lightroom 3.

Photography: Platt Photography
Software: Adobe Lightroom

The Ivory Coast: The anatomy of an album cover.

The Ivory Coast: The anatomy of an album cover. from Jared Platt on Vimeo.

Making an album cover photograph for piano rockstar, Kevin Burdick, gets increasingly difficult, as we continue to push to limits of where we can take his pianos. His most recent album, The Ivory Coast, took us and his piano to the sand dunes in Yuma, Arizona, where we suffered through extreme heat as we tried to hoist this heavy piano through the sand. It was fun, but challenging to put the album cover together.

This video includes interviews with Kevin Burdick about the making of the album cover, video footage of Kevin’s exclusive sand dune performance of Freight Train and many of the photos from the album photo shoot.

The video was edited exclusively in Adobe Premier CS5, which uses the 5D Mark II video file natively without requiring a conversion like Final Cut Pro. One more reason that Adobe is the best choice for image making professionals.

The final album cover contains four different photographs: the piano, Kevin on the sand dunes, the ocean and boat and then the texture.  Follow the post below to see the various elements of the album cover and the progression of the album cover.

Kevin Burdick, The Ivory Coast, Album Cover by Jared Platt

Moving the piano was very difficult.  We obviously could not get it to the top of a 30 foot sand dune, so we found some small “mini dunes” that were accessible by truck and off loaded the piano there.  But even then, it took three of us to move the piano and I think all of us almost popped a disk in our backs.  This was one of those old pianos and it was HEAVY!

Our first photograph was the piano.  Since it was the hardest thing to move, we figured we would start with that and match all of our angles for future photographs to that.  We shot the piano early in the morning as the sun rose so we could get the same lighting we would get at the top of the sand dunes down the road.  We had to shoot pretty quickly so we could get out the the large sand dunes before the sun got too high in the sky, so we got our shot done and sped off for location 2.  The Sand Dunes.

Kevin Burdick and his Red Piano on a small Sand Dune

This is our second shot, which is not too complicated a shot to create, it is just getting to the spot that is difficult.  In order to get out to a spot that has the same angle as our piano shot we had to hike in a mile or more into the Sand Dunes.  This is not like walking on the beach.  First, it is hot as hell.  Second, the sand is very deep.  Third, walking up hill while the sand falls downhill makes for some very intense stair step workouts that create the sense that you are not going anywhere.  Fourth, did I mention it was HOT!  And of course, Kevin is not wearing shoes!

Once we climbed high enough to get a shot from above looking down on Kevin and a series of dunes behind him, we got many many variations, as well as some video footage for music videos, etc.  We also got some cool shots for Dixon Golf in the United States’ biggest sand trap (watch for tomorrow’s post).  And then it was up to me to get the rest of the shots.

Kevin Burdick on a Sand Dune for the Album Cover Photograph

This photograph, which I had taken earlier at a wedding in San Diego worked perfectly for the background.  We wanted our Sand Dunes to overlook the ocean with some kind of a boat back there, so I searched my image catalog for the terms ocean and boat and come up with this image.  I worked perfectly.  I suppose, had we been going for realistic, the clouds would have been completely wrong for the photo montage, but we were looking for a dreamlike album cover of a place that exists only in the mind, so this fit the bill.

Sail Boat on the pacific Ocean

Then it was off to the image catalogs again to find the right texture to distress the image a bit.  The texture also helps to mold things together that otherwise wouldn’t fit all that well.  I keep a collection of textures for this very purpose in my image catalogs.  When I am shooting weddings or travel photography, I keep my eye out for interesting textures and collect them for uses just like this.  Being organized enough to find them is the real key.  So, I typed in the word texture into my Lightroom Image Catalog and choose the texture I wanted.  If you are having trouble finding your images, you need to do more key-wording!

This is what the photo composite looks like without the texture, before it is cropped and placed into the album cover design.

Man on the sand dunes with a red piano and an ocean and sailboat in the background

And again, once we have added the texture and the text to the photograph.  You can see how much the texture helps to soften the look of the image and make it a bit more dreamlike.  I actually prefer the tall skinny version of the image more than the square album cover.  I miss the days when you purchased a CD in one of those long skinny cardboard boxes that you could further design.  This would have been a perfect photograph for one of those.  But alas, now you will simply go to iTunes and purchase Kevin Burdick’s new album, The Ivory Coast, on iTunes and see only the square front cover.

The final album cover before the final crop

But of course, if you do that, you can see the back cover here.

Kevin Burdick's, The Ivory Coast Album Cover Back

We actually set up the piano the night before the shot so that we wouldn’t have to cary that thing in the dark.  So as we left it for the night, the sun set in the desert and the lonely piano stood quiet and alone among the shrubs.  I love this shot.

Piano in the desert at sunset

Photo Shoot Details:

Photography: Jared Platt, Platt Photography
Music: Kevin Burdick, (follow him on Facebook)
Photo Location: Yuma, Arizona
Video Camera: Canon 5D Mark II
Video Editing Software: Adobe Premier CS5

VEGAS Workshop at WPPI: Get Your Lucky Ticket!

Lightroom Workshop at WPPI in Las Vegas

I am speaking at WPPI this year as a Platform Speaker. My presentation, “The Photographer’s Eye” will be on Sunday the 20th of Feb at Noon. Thanks to Pictage for Sponsoring this event!

And since I am there anyway, along with thousands of other photographers, I thought it would be a good time to offer a Lightroom Workflow Workshop. There are many of you photographers out there who have missed my workshop when it came into town, so this is your chance to take the workshop now.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011, there will be two sessions from which to choose, each session lasting 4 hours. This way you can still catch a few speakers throughout the day on Tuesday, but still get the most valuable information you can get at WPPI. How to cut your workflow in half! And a whole lot about Lightroom 3.

Sign up for the Tuesday Morning Lightroom Workshop Session: 8am to 12noon
Sign up for the Tuesday Afternoon Lightroom Workshop Session: 2pm to 6pm

Both sessions are the same. Sign up online for the early bird special of $100. The door price is $200.

Or, since we are in Vegas, you can try your luck and go to WPPI, go to my sponsor’s booths and ask for a LUCKY TICKET. Each LUCKY TICKET has a price of either $120, $60 or FREE on it. Bring that ticket to the door and pay the price on the ticket. I hope you find a free one! That would be your lucky day!

SPONSORS with LUCKY TICKETS: Pictage, KISS Wedding Books, Triple Scoop Music, Shoot Q, Shoot dot Edit and RPG Keys.

The New Math of Lightroom 3 (Process Versions)

The New Math of Lightroom 3 (process versions) from Jared Platt on Vimeo.

I just posted this new podcast. For those of you using Lightroom 3, it is worth the watch. It is a tech topic, so if you are not a photographer, at least it has a photograph of a very cute kid! This little guy is a complete ham.

Lightroom 3 has a few great new features in it, but the best feature is the math behind the curtain. This is what Adobe calls a Process Version. It is essentially a new set of algorithms and other mathematic equations that I would never understand, that make our images look better. And all throughout high school, I thought math would never be useful to me. It turns out that it is very useful, as long as someone smart employes it in my photo software.

Lightroom 3 can employ the older math from 2003 (used in LR 2) or it can employ the new math inherent in LR3. The new math is beautiful and worth updating images that you are taking a second look at, but it is not advisable to update everything all at once. Check out this podcast to find out why.

The iPad as a Second Monitor

A little tech talk for all of you photographers and iPad lovers out there:

I taught a Lightroom Workshop in New York yesterday.  It was a fun workshop and we had a great group of people there.  One of the attendees, Carlos Martin, had his iPad with him and I told him that I had heard of an app for the iPad (from an attendee at my lecture at the Boston Pictage User’s Group meeting) which allows the iPad to become a second monitor.

He immediately downloaded the app and started working on connecting it to his laptop.  It didn’t work while we were in the workshop, but once he got it home and connected to his wireless network, it worked.  How cool is that?  The app is called iDisplay, but it gets bad reviews, so beware, but there is another app like it called Air Display which gets great reviews.  Anyway, it looks like a great idea.  I don’t have an iPad, but if I did, I would try one of these apps.  You can even use the touch screen to work on the iPad monitor, so you could conceivably put photoshop brush pallets and tools over on the iPad and just touch them as needed.

In Lightroom, using a second monitor is a real time saver.  Your second monitor can be your constant loop for confirming image quality.

Here is a shot of the iPad in action, courtesy of Carlos Martin.  Thanks Carlos.

 iPad as a Second Monitor

Lightroom 3.0 – My Favorite New Features

I have a list of favorite new features in Adobe Lightroom 3.0 but the best feature is the speed.  It is so much faster and more responsive than the prior versions.  They did a great job with it.  I am looking forward to teaching my fall workshops with the new version.  See you all out there on the road.  Check out the tour schedule at www.jaredplattworkshops.com.

Adobe Lightroom 3.0 My Favorite New Features from Jared Platt on Vimeo.

Lightroom 3.0 is faster with lots of new features. This video is a list of my favorite new features in Lightroom 3.0 and how I use them.

A New Infant Portrait Session

I just finished adjusting and editing a new set of infant portraits.  Our little model was a very pleasant baby.  I have had a few very pleasant baby models lately, perhaps it is summer babies?  Anyway, this photo session was a joy.  Enjoy the slide show and the example photos below.

We did some documentary style stuff as well as a few set up shots in around the house.  When I shoot this way, we use little or no flash (preferably no flash if I can get away with it).  In this instance, we are using the window light and the room light, nothing more and shooting at a high ISO with a 2.8 aperture to allow for as much light as possible and as a bonus, we get that shallow depth of field which really puts the focus on those beautiful baby eyes.

 Infant-Portraits-Chandler-Arizona-1-3

I love this next series.  Big brother is trying to get in on the action.  I see this in my kids all the time.  Big brother always wants to give the baby a hug or a kiss.  This set of three images deserves to be seen together.

 Infant-Portraits-Chandler-Arizona-4-2

 Infant-Portraits-Chandler-Arizona-2-2

 Infant-Portraits-Chandler-Arizona-3-2

And now for some portraits.  This one turned out wonderfully.  I was so happy with the lighting on it.  Let me remind you that this is in the client’s home.  You don’t need a studio to shoot this, in fact, everyone is more comfortable in their own home (assuming they like their home).  I love how the baby and dad emerge from the dark background and the baby’s hands are perfectly placed.  Way to go dad!  And then the baby went pee all over him…  But I think he’ll agree, it was worth it… I know mom will.

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This is a one week old baby.  She had a lot of strength.  This was all her, with no heroics and quite a developed little grin too.

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This is one of my favorite shots from the infant portrait session.  It is so soft and full of brightness and warmth.  Depth is a magnificent thing in a photograph.

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The baby cried one time.  I love photographing a crying baby.  A lot of parents worry when their child cries of fusses during a portrait session.  They fuss and stress, which tends to stress the child even more and the apologize profusely to me.  I have to remind people that I am attempting to capture the personality of their child, their expressions and mannerisms.  When they cry, that is a great photograph too.  In fact, I love looking back at the pouty photos of my children.  Those pouts and sour faces are a part of their personality.  Of course with this little baby, I worried she might never realy give me a good cry, but she got one in for me and I was ready to capture it.

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There is a lot of warmth in this image which is not from the lighting at the scene, in fact the lighting was very cool.  The daylight outside was very blue as was the flash I was bouncing into the ceiling.  All of the warmth is added in Adobe Lightroom in post production.  Most of these images were not ever brought into Photoshop.  For those of you who are interested in the technical side of this, I do not simply increase the temperature to get warmth in my photos, that does not look real and often times will over saturate the warmer tones in the image.  Instead, we are adding a image toner in the highlights and the shadows.  This creates a more realistic feeling of warmth.  I will be posting a lesson on this technique on my Lightroom Podcast on iTunes next week, so if you are interested, go subscribe.

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This was a perfect dresser for a little baby portrait.  I love all of the white in the shot, it helps the little toys and decorations, like that teddy bear.  It is a very geometrical shot.  I am generally much more prone to angling my frames in strange ways, but when geometry gets involved I work very hard to make sure I have the angles very square to the camera.  In a small room, though, this becomes difficult, because wide angle lenses distort the edges of the frame and straight lines become a bit bowed.  There are two solutions to this: 1. buy or rent a very expensive rectilinear lens or 2. fix it in post by negating the warp in Photoshop. — OR — the third option, which does not require Photoshop at all and is almost completely automatic.  I choose the third option.  All of my shots are automatically adjusted for lens distortion based on the camera and lens combination I am using.  I can’t believe it is possible to do it, but it is… look at the results, they are nothing short of miraculous.  Oh, what is the third option?  Ligthroom.  This technology is also available in the latest camera raw Photoshop CS5 as well.  Having this technology available has changed my imagery quite a bit.  I would never have taken the time to go into each image in Photoshop to negate the lens distortion, and now I don’t have to.  Have you figured out that I prefer to stay out of photoshop as much as possible?

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As much as I like the first version, I do enjoy the more simplified version, the close-up.  It has a much more graphic design to it.

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On the little shelf above the dresser was a small suitcase, which also made a good little prop for her to sit in.  I always look for things in the house I can use as props and backdrops.  I try not to rely on bringing props with me and although it makes for a more challenging job, the portraits turn out to be far more interesting, because it is the child’s natural surroundings.  Natural props in the photos are things that will mean far more to the parents in years to come than some cute prop in a studio.  In this case, she will probably have this bear for years too come.  I love the way she is holding the bear’s ribbon.  I did need to run this one through Photoshop because mom was holding the baby up, so her arm had to be removed from the shot.

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And her comes big brother with an Oreo Cookie.

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Little feet, big hands.  Everything about an infant is so perfect.  They are perfect little miracles.

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New Lightroom Tutorial: Lightroom Catalog Portability and Syncing

I just posted a new Adobe Lightroom Tutorial Online about Syncing Lightroom Catalogs. If you are using Lightroom professionally or as an amateur, it is worth watching. If you don’t know what Lightroom is and you just like look at my photos, your eyes might gloss over, so just skip this one. If you like falling asleep to the sound of my voice, go ahead and turn it on, it’s 20 minutes, to you should be asleep before it is finished.

Lightroom Catalog Portability and Syncing from Jared Platt on Vimeo.

You may have two or more computers, or be working with a post production company like ShootDotEdit for your post production on your images, but whatever the reason, you will need to know how to synchronize your catalogs from one computer to the next. Adobe Lightroom’s catalog portability will allow you to share your work load between computers, locations and people. In this 20 minute lesson, you will learn how to synchronize your images and catalogs from one computer to the next and even between Lightroom and Camera Raw in Photoshop.

For more Lightroom and Photography lessons and to learn more about my workshops, go to www.jaredplattworkshops.com.

A Dust Storm Rising: Takes Me Back Home

Living in the desert is a unique experience.  Forget about the 120 degree summer days and the horribly unfriendly plant life.  To me, the weather is quite fascinating.  I love the monsoon rainstorms and the lightning is fantastic.  Other places in the world have their own challenging weather situations, many much more dangerous.  There are tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards, etc…  and none of these options are very appealing to me, which is why I prefer my native state of Arizona.  But we do have our own unique weather effect: the dust storm.

I was traveling back from a job in Tucson and took a back road route home (rather than the freeway).  I enjoy doing this because everything goes by so quickly on the freeway and there is no inclination to stop and look at anything (and of course, it would be illegal to do so).  So the back roads are much more enjoyable as road trips go.  On my way home, I saw an approaching dust storm and immediately pulled off the road and pulled out the camera and went hiking.  The Arizona dust storm has a beautiful effect on our world.  It creates a ghost of anything in the distance if not, it completely obscures it.  Like a blizzard, it creates a thin sketch of the landscape with little to no contrast.  I am generally haunted by vacancy in an image.  I am not sure why, but of all the photographs I would select to hang in my home, it is those filled with quiet and solitude that appeal most to me.  That doesn’t mean that I choose to photograph this way all the time, but it has the deepest emotional affect on my soul.  I think it is because that is who I am at my core.
 Dust Storm Rising: Coolidge, AZ

If you are drawn to a particular style of photography, or art, and looking at that work brings you home, you can be sure that that attraction says a lot about you as a person.  In fact, weather you like a photograph or don’t, says less about the photographer or the photograph and more about you as a person.  Which is why, I think, that I get along so well with my clients.  They have selected me as their photographer based on their emotional and intellectual response to my work.  Which means that they, in some way, deep down at some root level, are like me.  We agree on what gives us peace and brings us home.

When I got home and started working with this image, I asked my wife about this image.  “Am I off base, or is this image extremely haunting and beautiful?”

“I can see what you are attracted to in the image,” she replied, “but it’s not all that great!”

No, I wasn’t devastated by her comment.  I just decided she was wrong.  It is great, but perhaps only to me and people like me.  Remember, her reaction to the photograph says more about her, than it does about the photo.  In contrast, I think my friend Isaac Bailey would like it.  But I think we share a common love for solitude (or perhaps it is a sullen longing for sleep).  My wife grew up in the city with all of its distractions and noise, I grew up on the prairies of Northern Arizona where the only noise is the constant wind.  So, my wife’s take on this photo was an instructive reminder to me.  My wife is a good judge of a photograph, which tells me that this image is different, my attraction to it isn’t just about some other brilliantly employed compositional strategy, I didn’t make this picture to sell something or even to make a statement.  I made it because something inside me wanted to go home for a little while and relax there in the shadow of the Zuni Mountains and look over the endless flat land, smell the dust, swap stories with my brothers and wait until dark for a ride back into town.  This was a free ticket back to Bitter Springs after the long climb through The Gap to witness the brilliant view from the tops of the Vermilion Cliffs.  Sometimes photography isn’t about the subject in front of us at all.  The subject is just a catalyst for memory, a sort of psychiatrist’s couch for introspection and self discovery.  And sometimes, a photography session reminds you of who you are.

These introspective moments almost never happen while the camera is in your hands.  They come in the quiet times in the darkroom, or the Lightroom as you study the results.  And while my mantra is always about efficiency in post production. When I feel that prompting, I do my best to slow down, and examine my work closely without distractions or deadlines and find out what it is, I have been trying to say to myself.

A few more images from the series that I think you might enjoy.

 Dust Storm Rising: Coolidge, AZ

 Dust Storm Rising: Coolidge, AZ

 Dust Storm Rising: Coolidge, AZ
 Dust Storm Rising: Coolidge, AZ

Tech Talk: All of the images in this post were completely processed in Lightroom.  They were never opened in Photoshop.  Tones, grain and vignettes were all added in Lightroom without the use of any additional plugins etc.  Below is a video about creating custom vignettes in Lightroom like those you see above.  This video is also on iTunes and on the Pictage Blog.  Check out more of my podcasts at iTunes and more blog posts at Pictage Blog.

Creating Custom Vignettes in Adobe Lightroom 2.6 from Jared Platt on Vimeo.