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