Lightroom Podcast: Use the Right Click in Lightroom

Use The Right Click in Lightroom from Jared Platt on Vimeo.

So many questions can be answered by simply right clicking in Lightroom. If you want to do something to anything in Lightroom, try right clicking it and see what you get. This is just a short list of things that the right click can do and by no means exhaustive. Just right click everything in Lightroom, even the little triangles at the edge of the screen, or the individual section headings on the left and right panels. Spend 20 minutes just right clicking. It will answer so many questions that you will no longer have to ask me about. As much as I like being needed… I’d rather have you exploring and discovering things for yourself.

And if you are on a mac, you do have a right click, you just need a mouse with a right click button. Or hold down the control key and click. (This is the point at which all PC users may laugh at the mac users. Your one chance!)

Shelby and Nick’s Engagement Portraits in Phoenix, Arizona

Nick and Shelby’s Engagement Portraits in the Phoenix Arizona Desert from Jared Platt on Vimeo.

We started this engagement portrait shoot at Shelby’s parents home in Phoenix, Arizona and ended it in the desert as sunset.  Shelby’s parents home is in the shadow of the mountain about two and a half hours before the sun sets, so there is a lot of great open shade around the home, which makes for fantastic images.  The color and texture of the stones is quite nice to work with as well.  And of course, Shelby and Nick are a good looking and cool couple, so it was a pretty nice afternoon.

The night after the engagement shoot, I posted one of the images from the shoot on my Facebook Page.  The shot is below.  Shelby just happen to have a card board cutout of Jacob, from the Twilight Movie series in her trunk.  I remember trying to watch one of those movies on a 14 hour flight home from a wedding in Hong Kong and it was so bad, so poorly acted, that I shut the movie off and did nothing for two hours rather than watch that movie.  It was a lot of fun and the shot makes me laugh, every time I look at it.

We had a lot of laughs while we were making the shot.  And if there is one thing that is extremely important at an engagement portrait session, it is having a lot of good laughs.  It certainly makes my job more entertaining, and the by-product is that the photos look better too.

So, here is the first photo I posted, the night of the engagement shoot.

Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona in the Desert with a cut-out of Jacob from the Twilight Movies

There were so many great shots from the afternoon.  I have posted a few of my very favorite shots below.

Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona against Brick wall

This was one of the earlier shots in the day.  The huge windows behind them make for some fantastic back light and the stair case made for a great angular element to hold the top of the photo together.  For those of you interested in the lighting on this shot, there is a shoot through translucent umbrella above, forward of and to the right of the Nick.  This light is giving the couple some volume by side lighting them, but we are not too dramatic, because it is at a 45 degree angle on them and it is a shoot through umbrella which softens the light a bit because the direction of the light is less defined.  The light was simply a 580EXII Canon Flash attached to a Radio Popper.  My camera is also sporting a 580EX flash with a Radio Popper transmitter and the flash is pounding up into the ceiling to give a little fill light throughout the room.  And then, of course, the window lights are providing shape of the stare case, and a little hair light for the couple.The shutter speed is at 125th of a second and the ISO is at 400.  This allows me to get a good blast from the ambient light outside and the aperture is at 2.8, which gives me that soft look in the background.  I am shooting on a fixed 85mm lens.  The 85mm 1.8 is not a very expensive lens, but it takes a beautiful image.  I love that little lens.

Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona in Home Easy Chair

I love the reflection in the pool and the blue set against the yellow blooms of the desert trees.

Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona by the Pool

Of all the images at the house, this has to be my favorite.  The stone and the tree are fantastic and the tree frames the couple very nicely in the bottom left corner of the photo.  You have to love the color in this one.

Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona against Brick wall under a blooming tree

Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona the Bride

I just love the expressions on this one.  Oh, and the composition.

Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona against Brick wall

Just behind their home, on the side of the mountain is an outcropping of rocks that was quite difficult to photograph.  Once we got them up to the rocks, I had to take position on the top of a wall to get the right angle on the shot, but how can you not love this one.  I was so happy with the image composition and then, Shelby put he elbow up on Nick’s shoulder and that made the photo!  I told her to keep that pose and “never stop!”  I think those were my actual words.  Way to go with this one Shelby.  Way to go.

Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona in the desert mountains

Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona in the Desert

I enjoy the quality of the light after the sun has gone down for about 15 minutes or so.  There really isn’t a better light.  I used to capture this kind of light on film, but I had to use a tripod, I was often shooting a 4×5 camera (those old accordion looking cameras with the dark cloths over the photographer’s head) and the exposures were 30 seconds and of landscapes.  I am so happy with digital cameras today.  6400 ISO?  No problem.  I could enjoy shooting an entire photo shoot AFTER sunset!  It really is the best light ever.

Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona in the Desert

Sweet light.  Sweet kiss.  Sweet shot.

Engagement Portrait in Phoenix Arizona a Final Kiss

Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography
Shoot: Engagement Portrait Session
Location: Phoenix, Arizona, South Mountain
Slideshow Music: Mindy Gledhill, courtesy of Triple Scoop Music

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

Enlarging Photographs for Print with Lightroom

Portrait of Bride at a Wedding in Chandler Arizona

I was producing a seriese of 30 inch prints for Hype Parke Jewelers, for a bridal wedding event at the Biltmore in Phoenix, Arizona and obviously needed to enlarge the image from about 20 inches to 30.  Shooting with the 5D Mark II, make enlargements a rare thing because the file is so big, but anytime I need to go beyond a 16×20, I need to do a little enlargement work on the image to make it work for the larger print.  In the past, I used Genuine Fractals  to enlarge my images and it did a fine job.  Recently, Genuine Fractals was apparently purchased by OnOne Software and then renamed to Perfect Resize.  I have been playing with it and while it does a god job, and actually does the math a lot faster than its predecessor, the interface is much, much slower.  Which lead me to ask myself, “do I need to use a third party software for standard enlargements?”

So, I decided to do a test.  I do a lot of tests… but I swear I do not have OCD.  But my obsession, turns out to be to your advantage.

First, I enlarged this image in Photoshop with the Perfect Resize 7.1 plug in to 30 inches wide at 300 dpi.  The results were acceptably good for the print.  You will see on the image below, that the process of resizing an image tends to create a painterly texture, but when printed, that texture is generally swallowed up in the texture of the print surface and the grain patterns of the emulsion.  So, I am pleased with the results and they will print nicely.  But, remember, I had to open the image in Photoshop and run it through the Perfect Resize plugin or run it through the Perfect Resize plugin in Lightroom, which has a very slow interface.

Enlargement by Perfect Resize 7.1 by OnOne Software

Then I went back to Lightroom and simply exported the image from Lightroom and told Lightroom to enlarge the file to 30 inches at 300 dpi with a standard print sharpening added to the image on export.  The process was a lot faster than dealing with the Perfect Resize interface and the results were just as good, if not better.  If you look at both images on the dark pupil and iris of the eye, you will see more of a painterly texture with a bit more banding in the Perfect Resize enlargement above than you will in the Lightroom version below.

Lightroom enlargement with print sharpening

So I wanted to see if I could do it even better right our of Lightroom without using any other software or Plugins.  And I promise, I am not OCD, I am just curious!  So I added a bit of grain to the image in Lightroom.  You can certainly see the grain in the image below, but observe what it has done in the pupil and iris area.  No more weird patterns.  I’m going to go with the added grain and no painterly patterns.  It is far more beautiful and takes a fraction of the time to make the enlargement.

Lightroom enlargement with LR sharpening and grain

Now, this was a fairly simple enlargement from 20 to 30 inches.  I am not saying that Perfect Resize is not a good tool for enlargement, it is very good, and indispensable when it comes to extreme enlargements, but for the day to day enlargements, I find that Lightroom does a fantastic job all on its own.  So I will trust Lightroom to make the enlargement and save my time for the more important things in life.

Now, I’m off to help my son solve an particularly hard level on Angry Birds.

For a step by step lesson on what I did to get these results in Lightroom, see the Lightroom Podcast below.

Making Photo Enlargements in Lightroom 3 from Jared Platt on Vimeo.

There are plenty of plugins and photoshop methods for enlarging photographs beyond their native size, but Lightroom 3 can match or beat even Genuine Fractals or Perfect Resize on standard every day enlargements.

In this video you will learn how to use Lightroom to enlarge your digital images without the use of Photoshop or a Plugin.

Photography Details

Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Subject: A Bridal Portrait

Location: The Inspiridor in Chandler, Arizona

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

Being Ready for the Moment: A Montelucia Wedding in Scottsdale, Arizona

Arizona Wedding at the Montelucia in Paradise Valley Candles on Table

This is a quick note about one image I captured last night at Lindsey and Brandon’s wedding last night at the Inter Continental Montelucia in Paradise Valley, Arizona.  It was a beautiful wedding which was designed and styled by Embellish (a fantastic team) with Flowers by Amy’s Floral Design.

BEING READY FOR THE MOMENT

On taking this photograph, I was reminded of the importance of being ready for the shot, which requires an intimate knowledge of photographic principles of light, exposure and of course skill of execution.

This was not a posed shot.  And when photographers today say that, they often mean, “I didn’t tell the bride to stand here and put her finger here and tilt her head just so.”  When I say, it was not a posed shot, I really mean it was not a planned shot.  I was down the hallway taking a snap shot of the bride’s father and a few friends, when her father saw his daughter down the hallway looking at the place card table and remarked upon it.  I spun around and saw this shot.  Had I planned it, I would have asked her to put down the drink in the right hand and then we would have shot a much less natural shot.  But it was this moment that was important.

I left the candid shots I was taking and moved quickly to get close enough for the shot.  As I moved there, I spun the dials on the camera to the correct settings for the best exposure and spun the flash head around into the right direction for a pleasing bounce and set the flash at the correct setting to produce an appropriate amount of fill light.  All of these changes were done while speed walking toward Lindsey.  Once I was in position, I stopped, aimed, focused and shot three frames.  That was it, that was the end of the opportunity.  I got the first two shots off before Lindsay became aware of the camera, but I encouraged her to ignore me (which she did), and I got one more of her looking at something on the table.

It was the first two shots in this moment where she is almost touching the flame of the candle that grab me.  It was late in the evening; she left the party for a moment and was all alone with one of the many beautiful tables, admiring the beauty of the decor and resting from the excitement of the day.  No doubt some happy thought was floating in her head in that half conscious state we all experience when mesmerized by the flicker of candlelight.  And this thought brought a peaceful look to her face (that is not easily fabricated).  That thought is the moment I captured here and that I am now so thrilled to pass on to you.

At the end of such a beautiful day, I am so glad she had an opportunity to step out alone and reflect on how well the event came together and to appreciate the wonderland she created with the help of the professionals at the Montelucia, Embellish and Amy’s Floral Design.  And I am glad to have been there at that moment, and glad for the training and practice that allow me to be ready for that moment because a knowledge of exposure is just second nature.  Don’t misunderstand, it is not about the equipment and the technical stuff, it never is.  It is about the moment.  It’s just that those who know their technical by heart, have more opportunities to capture the moment.

__________

For those of you interested in camera setting, the camera is at the following settings:

-ISO 800 – good for indoor lighting exposure with minimal grain on the Canon 5D Mark II.
-f5.6 – allows me to have a little extra depth of field to get some focus on the entire table, but still wide enough to allow some additional light in.
-1/15 Second Shutter Speed – This is called dragging the shutter.  I needed the candles to glow nice and brightly.  And since the shutter speed controls the ambient light without regard to the added flash, the best way to get the candlelight at 800 ISO at 5.6 was to drag the shutter at a slower speed.  In normal lighting conditions, this would cause camera shake concerns, but it was so dark in the hallway, that the only thing that was going to be exposed by the slow shutter speed was the candles themselves and a little bit of glow on the bride.  So, I was not to concerned about movement on the part of the bride or the camera.  Of course, when I took the shot, I planted myself firmly on the ground and practiced my snipper breathing.  Of course these settings would not work with a moving subject quite so well.
-Then comes the flash.  Bouncing the flash off the right corner of the ceiling with a slight bit of forward flash then filled in the areas of the scene that needed to be seen, but were obscured by the darkness.  The flash also served to freeze the movement of anything darker than the candlelights.  I had the flash on TTL with a slight flash compensation reducing the power output of the flash by 2/3 a stop.  This kept the flash from overpowering the ambiance in the hallway and the general glow on the brides face, but allowed the dress to light up along with brightening up the face enough to soften the contrast that would have been in the shot without the fill of the flash.

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 Lightroom Workflow Workshop in New Orleans

My Lightroom Workflow Workshop in New Orleans on November 8th, 2010 is now part of the Pictage Partner Conference and is now FREE to all attending the conference.  I am thrilled to be able to work with Pictage to provide such a valuable day of training in post production workflow to so many photographers.

The Lightroom Workflow Workshop Tour 2010 from Jared Platt on Vimeo.

Pictage’s goal with Partner Conference has always been to educate photographers and elivate their business and their vission and craft.  There is no greater comunity in the portrait and wedding industry than the Pictage community.  And Partner Conference is open to anyone, not just Pictage users.  It is a fantastic learning expereience.  Anyone who is in the industry, beginner or seasoned pro, can learn a great deal and have a blast at Partner Conference.

The early bird special ends this Firday, Spet 10.  So sign up for Partner Con, come to New Orleans and make sure you get there on Sunday night so you can take my workshop on Monday to kick of your week of learning right.

Reserve your seat for the Lightroom Workflow Workshop in New Orleans Now! It is FREE to anyone attending the Pictage Partner Conference.

Framing Photos from Inside a Sunset

I looked out the window the other evening and the whole world had a Tang orange glow.  Nothing looked right and as I went outside with my boys to investigate, I walked into another world.  The clouds were thick and full of rain, so very little light came through them, but instead spilled over them from the sunset below.  The dust was so thick that we were not looking at the sunset, we were in the sunset.  It was a magnificent sight.  There was, of course no time to go anywhere other than stay right outside my home and watch this spectacle change as the sun dropped to the unseen horizon.  And when this kind of thing happens, you stay outside with your camera until the sun goes down completely.  I couldn’t have asked for a better evening with my boys, watching such an incredible display of light and clouds.

As I photographed the clouds, I thought of a conversation I had with John Craig from Pittsburgh about photographic composition and the critical nature of the frame.  I asked him, “if you could pass on to your daughter, only one thing about photography, only one quick lesson, what would that be?”  It is an interesting question and one I think everyone should ask themselves.  What would you pass on to the next generation if  you had only one concept to pass along?  Think about it before you answer.  Some will say something like “follow your passion” or some such platitudinous drivel, which has nothing to do with better photography.  What I am asking for is serious conceptual advice on making better photographs, compositional strategies and theories that will, if learned and practices, make any image (no matter the content) into a better photograph.

My answer to my own questions is this: I would teach my child how to see and use the frame well.  There are so many theories and strategies that go into using the frame of the image, which is a lesson for another time, but there is no question in my mind that it is the most important aspect of photographic composition.  Yes, of course there are others, but the frame is where it all starts and ends.  It is the great unifier of photography (we all have four edges to our frame).  And yet there is nothing that damns so many photographers to second rate status because they do not use the frame well (mostly, they don’t pay attention to it).

So I offer the following as a method for training your eye to use the frame wisely:

Alfred Stieglitz made a series of photographs of clouds, which he called “Equivalence“, in which, he was attempting to photograph object, which in and of themselves held no loaded messages, and simply explored controlling random compositions as pure abstraction.  The theory being that without the loaded imagery, one could focus more on communicating the expressions of the inner soul directly to the soul of the viewer.  All a bit too artsy for me, but there was still a brilliance in his selection of clouds as a subject.

The experience of photographing clouds is a fantastic lesson in framing which is the cornerstone of composition.  The organizational structures of the clouds keep changing, morphing into something new every minute, so that there are an infinite number of frames before your camera, with constantly changing elements.  But there are no intellectually loaded symbols to distract the photographer, so the act of including or excluding something is not to avoid a particular statement or to make a point, but rather it is simply to create a stronger composition.

The greatest failure of inexperienced photographers is their inability to emotionally and intellectually distance themselves from the subject matter and watch for composition.  But, with clouds, a photographer has the freedom to practice composition by disregarding the content and dealing only with the composition.

So, with such a perfect opportunity, I took a few moments to practice my framing and enjoy the experience of pure compositional shooting.  Here is my favorite image.

 Platt-Photography-1

And when I say, Tang Orange, I mean it.  This is perfectly accurate color.  What you see here was exactly what we were seeing.  We were literally inside the sunset.

 Weather-2

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

Photographing Children without Stress

I have the greatest respect for multiple birth parents.  One baby is life altering.  Two must rock your world.

Like parenting twins, photographing them is also exponentially challenging.   Fortunately, I think my photographic style gives me an advantage in the challange.  Because I am interested in real life, I love a photograph of a crying baby as much as I do a smiling baby, and I am not consumed with getting a pre-determined shot that may not come, I am liberated to simply create and enjoy the challenge.

 Infant portraits by Jared Platt

Of course, parents, will generaly stress out about the photoshoot because they have paid for my time and have certain pre-conceved notions about what a baby portrait should look like and what kind of shot they want to get.  But, my advice to every parent, weather they are hiring me, or just trying to photograph their own children, is to simply go with the flow.  Never force the photograph, and let it become what it will.

A twins infant portrait is the perfect laboratory to prove this hypothesis.  In this case, I arrived at the home in the late evening and the mother and father know me and trusted what I was doing, so there wasn’t a lot of stress over the photos.  Of course, this is crucial to the success of the shoot.  If mom is stressed, baby will be stressed.

The first thing I tell parents is that we are going to keep shooting and get lots of great images and that babies are cute, no matter what they are doing, so relax and let’s just have fun, even if the children are crying.  The other thing that I do to maintain the relaxed atmosphere is to plan enough time for the photo shoot.  If the baby needs to eat, then we need to take a little break and I can take photos of the babies toys or talk with dad.  Rushing the parents or the baby, will only end in failure.

With plenty of time and a relaxed mom and dad, the stage is set for a successful photo-shoot, but the most important element is the understanding that I am there to photograph children as they really are, smiling or crying, and that gives me the freedom to concentrate on the photographs that I am making.

 Infant portraits by Jared Platt

Some people are not comfortable with this concept and want to control the final outcome, and there are some very good photo factories that are perfect for that.  A parent can go to the mall and choose from the catalog of props and sets and have a photograph of their child in a chefs hat in a cooking pot and they will walk out with the print they saw in the catalog, with their child in the pot rather than the model baby.  It is something akin to keeping buying a frame at the store and pasting your kids faces over the happy people in the stock photo that came with the frame.  It is very predictable and the people who work at these photo factories know the menu and they know the recipe for this shot and that.  It is predicable and safe and there is nothing wrong with that.  But the parents who come to me for portraits are interested in something special and unique to immortalize their child.  They want something real, something that means more than just a cute portrait.

 Infant portraits by Jared Platt

Coming into the home, allows the child to be photographed in a unique environment that is filled with memories and spirit and as I use this natural surrounding, the child is placed at ease and more importantly, nothing is a prop, because everything has meaning.  And by discarding those pre-conceved shots and just taking things as they come, we are all open to letting things happen and enjoying the experience.  And we still end up with some of those cute traditional photographs, but without the stress.  However, I will always maintain that the less planned images are always the best.

 Infant portraits by Jared Platt

It certainly is not a predictable way to photograph a child, but children aren’t predictable anyway and in the end, no one can doubt the outcome.  The images are full of emotion, humor and joy and are extraordinary portraits that will be cherished forever.

Of course, you can judge the results for yourself.

 Infant portraits by Jared Platt

 Infant portraits by Jared Platt

 Infant portraits by Jared Platt

Here We Go! The Lightroom Workflow Workshop Tour Kicks Off – July 17, 2010

It is that time of year.  I am heading out to cities across the United States to teach my Lightroom Workflow Workshop.  In this workshop I teach professionals and enthusiasts how to take control of their post-production workflow.  I have just released the trailer below.  Take a look at it.  And I will look forward to seeing you out on the road somewhere in my travels.

To book a seat at the workshop, go to www.jaredplattworkshops.com.

The Lightroom Workflow Workshop Tour 2010 from Jared Platt on Vimeo.

Conquer your workflow demons with Jared Platt as your instructor. The Lightroom Workflow Workshop Tour begins on Saturday July 17, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. We will then be off to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Syracuse, Los Angeles, Vegas, Cincinnati, Louisville, Miami, Jacksonville, Orange County, San Diego, Raleigh, Nashville, New Orleans, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle and more.

Come learn how to cut your workflow time in half or more and win some great prizes and get free product and services from our sponsors. And learn Adobe Lightroom 3.0 in the process.

The Lightroom Workflow Workshop will pay for itself on day one!

www.jaredplattworkshops.com

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.

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.

Photos from the Darkened Theater

I have always loved the stage.  Looking out into an audience you know is there, when you can not see them is an exhilarating feeling.  And even though you can not see them, you can feel their energy as they get wrapped up in the performance.  As I posted earlier, I attended Kevin Burdick‘s concert in Arizona and took a few photos there.  I didn’t take a lot of them because I was attending the concert with my kids, so I only took a few at the beginning and a few at the end.  It was a great show with great music and a worthwhile message about following our dreams.

Good work Kevin.

 Kevin Burdick in Concert

Kevin talks about his little girl, Dempsey during the show and shows a slideshow of images from her life when he sings his song “Too Good for this World,” a tribute to his daughter.  It is a powerful thing to watch.  Especially for me, because I was there for those 30 days while she ws in the hospital fighting for her life.  I photographed her and her Father and Mother as they held on to each precious moment.  Every time I hear that song, or see her photos, I am reminded to thank God that I was allowed to keep mine with me.  But in the end, I truly believe (as Kevin sings) that the “fathers welcomed her home” and that she looks down on us all now.  Someday I will share that set of images, but for now, here is one of them as a backdrop to the performance.

 Kevin Burdick in Concert

Kevin’s drummer, Aaron “Chives” Chavez, who plays the strangest concoctions of drums and boxes, etc.  He is finishing up his masters in World Percussion and quite a talented man.

 Kevin Burdick in Concert

 Kevin Burdick in Concert

And finally, my favorite shot of the evening.  Like I said, I am fascinated with the darkness of the theater.   Enough said.

 Kevin Burdick in Concert

I have had a few questions about how I accomplished some of these photographs, so I will add a few technical notes to the end here.

Tech Talk:

Photo Settings (for the above photo): 1/60 – f 3.5 – ISO 640 – 16mm – No Flash – Canon 5D Mark II – White Balance Full Sun

Color balance:  If you are shooting in a theater you have to turn your camera off of Auto White Balance.  The color jells and temperature of the theatrical lighting will fool your camera every time.  Theatrical lighting is closer to the temperature of the daylight.  First, try to figure out the actual temperature in kelvins of the lights, but if you can’t get it or don’t want to test or get a custom white balance from one of the spotlights with no gels on it, you can always just turn your white balance to the full sunlight setting.  Shooting in the wrong white balance will result in all sorts of bad color shifts, and even in RAW, you will have a hard time getting the color balance back into line.

Exposure:  Your camera will always meter and expose to make everything middle gray.  Which means that if you are in a dark theater, your camera will see all of that darkness and try to over expose the shot.  So instead of having black blacks, you will have grey blacks and as a result of the over exposure, you will also gain additional noise in what would have been the shadows.  So simply turn your camera to manual exposure and make the decisions yourself.  Fortunately, once you have the setting, it won’t change all that much because the lighting is going to remain fairly constant for each given scene, assuming you have professionals managing the lights.

Focus:  Focusing in the dark is difficult for auto focus.  Don’t even try it.  Instead, look to the rim lights on the body to grab a manual focus.  Remember that auto focus is always looking for contrast to register focus, so if it is dark, you will have a hard time grabbing focus on the subject.

Rain and Gale Force Winds: A great day for a photo shoot.

It was a rainy day with strong winds all day and a bit cold for Phoenix, AZ in January, but we altered our planned photo shoot a little in the concept and went out shooting.  Piano rock star, Kevin Burdick, was the subject.  We decided to take the umbrellas, but when we got to our location, we had a break in the clouds, but not the wind.  So we went with the umbrellas anyway.  Kevin get very tired trying to hold the umbrellas up against the wind, it really was quite strong.

 Portrait of Kevin Burdick by Jared Platt

The photos were shot with the Canon 1D Mark IV.

Now on to some tips and tricks:

First, the sun is off to the right of the photo and slightly behind Kevin.  Which means that if we took the photo without additional lights, he would be too dark.  Remember, we are competing with some bright clouds in the background, so we have to control the ambient exposure to match.  We could use a big reflector, or we could use a flash.  It was just Kevin and myself, no assistant, so we chose a flash unit.  A Canon 580EX II is mounted on a pole about 12 feet off to my right to avoid the on camera flash flattening effect.  Because it is off camera, I had to connect it via wireless slave.  I am using the pocket wizard TT1 and TT5 system.  This allows the camera to communicate with the flash via radio signal, but unlike typical radio slave systems, that only transmit the fire signal, the TT1 / TT5 system allows the camera to communicate metering solutions etc to the flash for TTL auto exposures.  The TT1/TT5 system also allows me to sync my flash at incredibly high shutter speeds via radio slave, and in order to get the ambient exposure right with the correct depth of field, I need to expose the image at f 5.0 at between 1/1600 and 1/2000 of a second.  A typical flash slave system will only allow syncing with a flash at 1/250 of a second.  So the Pocket Wizard TT1 / TT5 system is critical to the success of this photograph.  When I need the light, but also need the shutter speed, I don’t have to compromise.

The flash is set to provide a bust of light which is about one and a half stops lower than the brightness of the sun.  This allows the sun to remain the dominant light source.  You can see that the sun is still creating its signature crest of light on the far right side of Kevin’s face, but it is not blown out.  The near side of his face, though lit well, is still the shadow side.  This combination of lights provides a good contour to his face.  I am getting a studio lit look out on location with three lights.

“Three lights,” you ask, “but you have just mentioned the two?”

Light One:  The sun.  This is the strongest light on the set.  It is the light coming from the side and slightly behind, giving me that crest of light on his face and hands, and acting as a hair light.  It is also providing the nice bright crests on the clouds and the mountains.

Light Two: The Canon Flash.  This is a direct light on Kevin’s face which is filling in the shadow not to match, but fall short of the power of the sun (light one).  This gives us a great vivid exposure on Kevin’s face, without flattening the contours of the face because it is not on camera, but off camera and coming at the subject from the same side of the frame as the sun, so direction of the shadows still make sense.

Light Three: God’s Soft Box, the Northern Sky.  The northern sky (because in North America, the sun is always in the southern sky) is a giant soft reflector of the sun’s light.  That bounced light from the northern sky is filling in all the deep shadows on my subject and on the mountains and the clouds.  Without the reflection of the norther sky, the shadows in the photo would be very dark.  Now, I cannot position God’s soft box on a moment by moment basis, it is in a fixed position, but there are some things I can do.  I can choose the time of day to shoot, so that either the northwest or the northeast sky is my active soft box and I can position my subject such that he faces the northern sky, and I can choose the proper location for shooting the photograph so that my subject can face away from the sun, toward the northern sky.

 Portrait of Kevin Burdick by Jared Platt

I always know where the sun is and is going to be.  My iPhone, though not a good phone, has a great sun position app which tells me the exact position of the sun at any hour of any day well into the future.  So, when I scout a location, I know where the sun will be a 3 PM on Jan 12, 2030 and can plan my photo shoot accordingly.  I need to know this, because I want to get the best shot with the least amount of equipment possible.

 Portrait of Kevin Burdick by Jared Platt

The green toned photo above is what happens when the sun changes brightness on you in the middle of the shoot.  The original shot is a bit off in exposure, but with some fancy photoshop work using two different develops of the same RAW file, I was able to pull of a very cool shot and and control exactly how dark I wanted the background and the subject.  I love the drama of the image.

Note: Although the rest of these photographs have undergone a major amount of burning and dodging they have not been “retouched much at all.  I am not all that interested in major retouching, but burning and dodging, which I did very skillfully in the darkroom, is still a very key part of the beauty of my images.  Although now, I have such precise control offer my burns that almost anything is possible.  I often will slim down a subject or remove a belly with only burning and dodging.  I will post my article on Burning and Dodging here on the blog in the near future.  It ran in Professional Photographer Magazine in January 2010.  If you have a copy, take a look.

_______

This next set of photos, we moved the position of the light from my right side to my left.  Some people on my facebook posts have said it looks almost like he is being photographed against a backdrop, because he is popping out of the photo so much.  This is what happens when you move your second light to a less natural position.  Instead of the light coming from the same side as the sun’s light, it is coming from the other side, which subtly sets Kevin at odds with the shadows in the background.  Ergo, he jumps out of the photo because he is no longer blending in to the light.  Your mind sees him as different than the photo, even if your consciousness can not figure out why.  Study the photo carefully and see the shadows on Kevin, then the shadows on the mountains and clouds.

 Portrait of Kevin Burdick by Jared Platt

Anytime you want something to pop out of your photo, you have to make it different than everything else in the photo.  Most of the time, people use a bight color to do this.  More subtle is using a different texture of perhaps a different pattern, etc.  Notice, he is also wearing a tomato shirt.  That helps him stand out in every photo.  But the lighting is the real key to creating that extreme difference that is still subtle enough to make one question their perception.

 Portrait of Kevin Burdick by Jared Platt

Now for the rest of the photo shoot.  When he is far away from the camera we obviously can’t light him with a flash, so a little dodging in the post production fixes the shadow of the face.  Fortunately, distant shots like these don’t require as much lighting, because they are more about composition.  Besides, we still have our two lights working for us: light one and three.

 Portrait of Kevin Burdick by Jared Platt

 Portrait of Kevin Burdick by Jared Platt

 Portrait of Kevin Burdick by Jared Platt

 Portrait of Kevin Burdick by Jared Platt

 Portrait of Kevin Burdick by Jared Platt

 Portrait of Kevin Burdick by Jared Platt

Before we went out for our location shoot, we also did a few shots in the studio.  Kevin is great for expression.  I posted a set of these expressions in a previous post, but here are a few larger shots I loved from the session.

 Portrait of Kevin Burdick by Jared Platt

You may be wondering what I did to the photos here.  What photoshop action did I use?  The coloring effect is done completely in Adobe Lightroom with the click of a button.  It is one of many presets I have created for toning my images.  This one reminds me of an old 1970s photograph of my mom and dad in horn rimed glasses and a few of the kids  up in the mountains.  The color is faded and the paper is yellowed and some of the silvers are oxidizing.  It is a nice effect, but who wants to wait 30 years for that.  Anyway, most people make these color presets with the color balance changes, but that sometimes messes up the photo itself.  Making presets correctly is important.  I am finishing up a second set of presets, which will be available for purchase by WPPI 2010 in Las Vegas (where I will be teaching a master class on Lightroom and if you are coming, I will teach you how to make this preset).   The first set of presets is called the Essential Lightroom Preset Collection, which is a set of work-flow centered presets to get you through the editing process quickly.  This new set is called the Top Secret Collection, which is a set of effect presets to compliment the Essential Collection.  This effect in particular is mostly based in the split toning panel of the develop section in Lightroom.  There are some other settings in Saturation, Vibrance and Clarity etc that help to make it look just right, but the bulk of the effect is there in the split toning.

By the way, if you are going to be at WPPI and want to take my master class, but can’t get in because it is full, email [email protected] and ask to be placed on the waiting list.  If there are enough people on the waiting list, they will open another class.  And more importantly, they will book me in a platform class next year, which they should have done this year.  So if you are going to WPPI, email and ask to be placed on the waiting list.

 Portrait of Kevin Burdick by Jared Platt

And finally, a nice black and white at 1600 ISO.  This Canon 1D Mark IV is incredible in the higher ISOs.  I can’t say enough good things about that ISO.  I turned off the flash slaves and simply used the modeling lights, raised the ISO with impunity and shot.  With this camera, I will never fear the ISO.  Never.

 Portrait of Kevin Burdick by Jared Platt

Guess that ISO – a lesson in film and digital grain structure

(First Published on the Pictage Blog, Thursday, Feb 11, 2010.)

So I have a little game I first played with Elizabeth Pratt from Canon. The game is called “Guess that ISO”. We are going to play it here today.  for those of you who are not professional photographers, ISO is the sensitivity rating of the film or chip in the camera.  Lower ISOs are best in bright lighting conditions and higher ISOs allow for proper exposure in low light situations.

Here is the image we are going to work with. It was shot with a Canon 1D Mark IV. This is the final image with various adjustments and increased noise reduction etc. I just wanted you to get a feel for the image we are working with.

 Child-Portrait-Feet-1

The Fine Print:

The zoomed in detail images below have only one adjustment applied. I have to be upfront here, I am not going to show you the original image with no noise reduction because that is not practical, no image is used without a default noise reduction. So, what I am showing you below is the image with absolute “normal” noise reduction in Adobe Lightroom. I have the NR set at 25, witch is the default for Lightroom for basically every camera on the market.

With the fine print out of the way, let’s play.

GUESS THAT ISO…

Look at the grain structure and noise levels and tell me what ISO did I use?

 low-noise-markiv

Now for a little lesson on color noise and grain.

In the beginning, was film. Film is made up of millions and millions of floating silver halides (little flex of “want-to-be silvers). These silver halides float in a gelatin emulsion (like jello but harder – made mostly of cow hooves etc…). So, no film image is ever a continuous tone. Even the best film image has a grain structure to it. The image is made up of tiny little randomized dots that, when seen from a distance create the illusion of an image. George Seurat made paintings in this manner, which is known as pointillism. His paintings were constructed from random specks of paint placed in proximity to each other. Colors were mixed, not by blending pigment, rather, several dots of yellow and blue were mixed by the eye to create the illusion of green. As the dots got closer together, the tones became more dense and vice versa as they grew further apart. The further back you stand from a Seurat painting the better and more continuous the tones and colors in the painting appear. If you have ever seen a color newspaper or magazine up close, you have seen a very large and pattern based version of pointillism. Photographic grain (color and black and white) exhibits with the same principles.

Film’s inherent grain structure was a necessary part of the photographic image making from the the 19th through the 20th centuries. We accepted it and grew to love it, because it was the only option available. Slower films, which required brighter light, had less grain and more continuous tones; faster films, which could be shot in lower light situations had more grain and created a more pointillistic effect. We came to see grain as part of the art form. Larger, more prominent grain structures felt gritty and press like. They insinuated “documentary” and “reality”, while tighter, smother grain structures presented a cleaner, cleaner view of the world, so we saw them as more controlled. Landscape photographers and commercial photographers shot this way, so naturally the images were typically more perfect and therefore a little less believable than the gritty “documentary” style images with all that grain.

Originally, photographic emulsions were mixed in only one variety: the grainy, gritty kind. But, with the advancement of the science and the introduction of finer grain structures and faster emulsions, photographers began choosing film speeds, not just to deal with different lighting conditions, but also to create a different mood or feeling in their images. Selecting a 1600 ISO press film for a commercial fashion shoot was a choice specifically made by the photographer to suggest reality, documentary or art! Films were chosen based on their color bias and for their grain structures. Some photographers loved large grain, others loved fine grain. But grain was always a part of the photographic life and we all accepted its existence and learned to manipulate it to our advantage.

With the advent of digital photography as a viable photographic medium, photographers no longer had to accept grain. Unlike film, digital captures are made up of a grid of pixels, and those pixels are so close together that from one point of color or tone to the next there are no gaps. This means it is a truly continuous tone. Digital presented us with a grain-less option that was so clean and so flawless that the visual language began to change. Photographers expected more out or their image making tools and started seeing grain as a flaw in the image as opposed to a beautiful part of it and, to some degree, some clients have rejected that gain as well. Seurat would be agog at our negative reaction to grain in a continuous tone digital age. He went through great pains to create paintings completely out of this grain-like effect and here we come in 1010 thinking that grain is an eye sore? Strange indeed.
While it is great to know that I have the option for grain-less images, the fact still exists, that grain has a purpose in image making and when used well, enhances the photograph. But, one thing digital has not done well, in the past, is grain.

Our love affair with the cleanliness of the digital capture, only lasted in the lower ISOs of the camera. Digital cameras had a problem of color and luminance noise in the higher ISOs. I remember shooting with a Nikon D1x and then a Canon 10D. Both cameras were absolutely worthless at 800 ISO. Even if you could stand the blocky and offensive grain structure, the color noise was so atrocious, you could only keep the file if you were willing to turn it to black and white. Even just 3 years ago, when comparing film to digital, one would have to admit that while the digital capture did a better job at creating a continuous tone in the lower ISOs, films were far superior to digital in the higher ISOs with its beautiful grain structures. If a digital photographer wanted beautiful grain, he would have to shoot his image in a lower ISO and then digitally manipulate the image and render the gain into the image. This is no longer the case…

Recently, camera technology and image software technology together have reduced the color noise and randomized the grain structure in the higher ISOs to the point that a side by side film and digital grain comparison at 800, 1600, 3200 ISO will leave film in the dust for continuous tone and fine grain structure. Our little guess the ISO game proves this point. In a dimly lit room, the Canon 1D Mark IV can record details, brighter than the eye can see them, at a 100th of a second and yet the grain structure is tight and beautiful. It seems that with each new generation of cameras, film looses another unique feature. Beautiful grain in the higher ISOs is the just the latest.

I have never bought into the notion that grain is a negative thing. When I shot film, I loved the grain of 400 TMAX. I loved shooting with Fuji 1600 or Ilford 3200. Now, digital has matched the beauty of those grain structures without any heroic manipulations in photoshop. Say it with me again and again, “grain is beautiful!” And now, in digital we have every option before us: heavy grain, light grain or absolutely no grain. And we don’t even have to change film!

Thanks Canon!

And the ISO is…

So now, are you ready to know the ISO? 12,800 ISO. I am still astounded. The Mark IV, together with Adobe Lightroom’s standard noise reduction creates a beautiful, tight grain structure with no offending color noise whatsoever. You can not beat that. It this point, every ISO from 50-12,800 is usable in digital without a second thought.

 low-noise-12800iso-markiv

PS. Don’t get on me about Nikon v Canon, or Film v Digital. I’m not judging you if you shoot Nikon or Film. I used to shoot Nikon film cameras. To date, my favorite body I have ever shot with is a the Nikon F5. Film still has its place and still beats the pants off digital when there is no electrical outlets to charge your camera or when it comes to latitude of capture. I’m just talking about where we’ve been and how far we’ve come with respect to grain in photography. Think about it. We’ve come a long way.

Jared Platt

Platt Photography

This article was first published on the Pictage Blog on .

Article on Burning and Dodging in Professional Photographer Magazine

I just received my copy of Professional Photographer Magazine where I wrote an article on burning and dodging in Photoshop.  It is a great article with a great photograph.  The reason the photograph is so perfect for the article is that it didn’t need a lot of retouching or manipulation, but still opening it in Photoshop was worthwhile.  There are so many subtle shadows and tones that can be enhanced by the process of burning and dodging, a photograph is just better once it has been burned and dodged.  My philosophy is very simple: I do not burn and dodge to change the photograph, but rather to enhance the natural shades and highlights that are already there.  You can see the final enhanced photograph below and on my portfolio web site at PlattPhotography.com.

Look for the magazine on the racks now.  If you don’t know how to burn and dodge your images in Photoshop, or if you are currently burning the actual image layer, you need to read the article.  If you are not a photographer and don’t know what I am talking about, it might get a little technical, so let’s just say, Jared wrote a cool how-to-article in Professional Photographer Magazine and his photographs are really great!

 Jared Platt - Photography article in professional photographer m

The photograph I chose to use for the article was one of my favorite images I shot on a wedding in Rome, Italy.  We woke up very early in the morning to get out before all the tourists.  This was the first image of the day, the Spanish Steps.  The Spanish Steps are so crowded with tourists and locals during the day that there is no way to take a great photo.  So we hit the them just as the sun was rising, as the vendors were preparing for the day, and the carriage operators were preparing their horses.  I couldn’t have asked for a better situation to take a beautiful photograph.  And let’s face it, who wouldn’t want a wedding portrait on the Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy?

When looking at this photograph, pay close attention to the incredible detail on the walls and the shutters.  All of these details, the stains and the cracks exist on the buildings naturally, but it was the process of burning and dodging that brought them out and made them so vivid.  This is the kind of detailed attention that every one of my “Art Prints” receives as I prepare them for my clients.  I personal work on every “Art Print” myself and each one is printed under my careful supervision.

 rome-italy-wedding-photography

Fine Grain, No Color Noise, Almost Perfect Auto Exposure… Mark IV

Think snap shot.  Think completely auto exposure.  Not 3200 ISO, not 6400 ISO, but 12,800 ISO.  Here’s what I would expect:

First, this shot is a problematic one for an auto exposure.  It is 100% back lit and as a result, most cameras are fooled into believing that the brighter light is the primary exposure, so the face (the only truly important element in this photo) would be underexposed.  But without any forethought or exposure compensation, the Canon Mark IV nailed the exposure.  The face was exposed perfectly and the highlight on the side of the face didn’t even blow out, and this was a JPG, not a RAW.  I would anticipate even more latitude from a RAW shot.  My first auto exposure expereince with the camera was a very good one.  The camera made all the right decisions and maintained information in every important highlight and every important shadow.  We’ll see how it performs over time, but this was a problematic situation and it got it right.

Furthermore, I would like to point out that at ISO 12800, I was able to shoot an indoor photo with a small 40 watt lamp as a back light with no other lighting and get a nice little snap shot.  1/80 sec shutter speed (fast enough for a 50mm lens) and f2.5.  Any other camera in my bag can’t get that done at those settings.
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Second, at an extreamly high ISO, bulky grain structures that would soften the photograph and disrupt the thin lines of an eye-lash or other fine details.  Thus making a sharp focus look soft.  But the Canon Mark IV has a pretty fine grain structure at 12,800 ISO.  Notice in the detail below, the eyelashes are indeed sharp and do not look fuzzy like they might on a 5D Mark II at 6400 ISO.  This is due to what appears to be a much finer grain structure, which describes these fine details far more accurately.

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I would also expect major color noise.  In fact, my 5D Mark II at 6400 ISO is always turned to balck and white.  They look nice, but color is problematic.  In fact, as you can see, I initially turned the photo to black and white to avoid color noise.  But again, I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of color noise.  You will recall yesterday’s post, I was impressed with the color noise of the lower ISO settings.  Now I am really impressed.  Using the default color noise suppression settings in Lightroom of 25,  I got absolutely no color noise at 12800 ISO.  This means that I can use this camera at every ISO setting in color or black and white.

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I have to admit, I am thrilled so far with the camera.  The lack of color noise and the fine grain structure at even the very highest ISO settings is just short of miraculous.  I’ll be tracking a bunch of moving children with auto focus tomorrow.  We’ll see how it reacts to that rigorous test.  For that matter, we’ll see how I react to that rigorous test…