I was just featured on the Done Brilliantly Blog by Two Bright Lights. Check out the interview and photos at DoneBrilliantly.com.
Two Bright Lights is a service I use to deliver my images to all the incredible vendors that make weddings and events so beautiful and to the magazines who publish them. It is a fantastic service.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 by Jared Platt, Platt Photography
Subject: A Bridal Portrait
Location: The Inspiridor in Chandler, Arizona
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.