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

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

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.

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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.

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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.

Dust Storm Rising: Coolidge, AZ

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.