Thursday, May 31, 2012
Over the weekend, I had a Memorial Day photo shoot with the lovely Teresa from Silver Skye Travel. Teresa was celebrating starting her travel business and losing an amazing 30 pounds! What a great reason to have some fresh new photos taken! She even brought her puppy, Silkie, along for the fun.
This photo session took place at an old mill in Central, South Carolina, just miles from Clemson University, and about a half hour outside of Greenville, SC. Because we were shooting on Memorial Day, the mill had been decorated with flags for an event, making for a very patriotic setting. Teresa brought her faded denim, leather boots, and sparkly cowboy hat. She’s a little bit country and a little bit rock n’ roll with an amazing sense for fashion.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
This tutorial comes by way of special request from Karl, who visited the Adrienne Frankenfield Photography Facebook page. Karl is working on a website for a restaurant, and after seeing last week’s food photography tutorial, he asked if I could write a follow up to explain the concept of “depth of field”. Of course, I said yes. :)
What is depth of field?
In photography, depth of field refers to the distance between the nearest and furthest objects in a photograph that are in focus.
An image with only a small piece of the picture in focus is said to have a “shallow depth of field“. For example, in the image below, notice that the water droplets and part of the blade of grass are in focus, but most of the background is blurred. This is an example of a shallow depth of field.
Where might knowledge of depth of field come in handy?
A smaller depth of field can really make the difference between a portrait that looks like a snap shot and a portrait that looks like a professional photograph. Reducing your depth of field for portraits to cover the length of space where your subject/model is standing will give you a crisp looking persona and a nice blurred background, so that the focus is more on the person, and less on the “other stuff” in the picture.
Macro photography is one of my favorite uses for a really shallow depth of field. Some really stunning images can be produced when only centimeters of the image are in focus. This gives you the opportunity to focus in on some really interesting tiny details, such as water droplets, blades of grass, petal edges, insect wings, etc.
Food photography / products -
Reducing your depth of field can be great for food and product photography, for the same reasons as in portrait photography. It can bring the focus to one important thing in the photo, and turn the rest of the objects in the photo into supporting players. It’s a great tactic for highlighting what is important in the photo.
How to Alter Your Depth of Field
There is one primary factor that affects depth of field more than anything: aperture size.
The larger your aperture, the smaller your depth of field. Remember: smaller aperture number = larger opening. This is what gives you a larger area of soft blurring and a smaller area of the photograph in focus. I put together a quick example with my 50mm lens for this tutorial, since it has the ability to go up to 1.4 on the aperture size.
The following photos have varying aperture sizes to illustrate how the depth of field changes. Notice that as the numbers get larger (smaller aperture opening), more of the photo is in focus.
Aperture size: f/1.4
Aperture size: f/2.0
Aperture size: f/3.2
Aperture size: f/5.0
Aperture size: f/8.0
Aperture size: f/14.0
I hope everyone enjoyed this explanation of depth of field. Now, go out there and take some awesome photos!
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t like good food, or pictures of good food. Good food photography can make your mouth water and your stomach grumble. It makes you want to reach your hand into the computer monitor, grab a piece, and take a bite. At least, that’s what the people posting the photos would like for those on the receiving end of those pictures to feel!
Food photography has a special place in my heart. My love affair with photography started a very long time ago, but it was food photography that brought some real passion into the relationship. Those who know me in real life know that I love to play around in the kitchen and come up with healthy new recipes, and that I’m one of “those people” who takes pictures of my food at restaurants, particularly if the food has an artful composition. What I’m going to focus on today is how to get the best pictures of food photography at home with a simple setup. This should be useful for anyone that has a food blog or just likes to make their friends jealous. :)
Tip #1: Lighting is everything. Buy or build a cheap light box.
Good lighting is important for any subject! However, I think it’s easiest and really simple to accomplish good, even, diffused lighting on a small scale with a light box. I have one that was purchased for me as a gift, but they are easy to make too!
If you are looking to purchase one, I have the “Portable Photo Studio” from ThinkGeek (shown below). It came with some nice little lights to use too. I’ve even used this thing to take awesome camera phone pictures.
If you’d like to build your own, it’s pretty easy too:
(1) Get a cardboard box that is approximately 18” square and cut the flaps off.
(2) Lay it flat on your work surface with the same orientation as the light box shown above.
(3) Cut large windows in the panels that are oriented to the top and sides (leave about 2 inches around the edges).
(4) Tape some white tissue paper over the windows.
(5) Cut a piece of white poster board that is long enough to tape up on the inside back panel and drape down out the front for your continuous white background.
(6) Add some table lamps near the tissue paper and voila.
I attached some black fabric to the inside of my purchased light box for the effect shown in soup (above) and sandwich (below) images.
Honestly, sometimes I’m too lazy to take out the side lights too. I’ll attach my external flash to my camera with a diffuser, point it toward the back or top of the light box, and just let the diffused light bounce around. I’ve achieved some pretty good shots that way. Another technique that I like to use is to place the light box near an open window on a sunny day and let the sun light up the box from the outside.
(This is just a turkey sandwich, but it sure looks fancy in a light box, right?)
Tip #2: Color contrast will make your food pop!
If you want your food photos to pop, you’ll need some interesting color contrasts to help out. I like to shoot on stark white plates against a black background to highlight the food on the plate. That’s just personal preference since I do a lot of fine art photography and it reminds me of a photo in a black frame with a white mat. You should style your food in the way that lets your own personality show through.
Consider using printed fabric as your background to mimic a table cloth, or adding some minimal props for visual interest. Don’t overdo it with the props though. You want the food to speak for itself. Sometimes, simple garnishes work really well for this. In the image below, I added some green leaf lettuce to a photo of an unconventional savory sorbet - roasted tomato with bacon. The lettuce made it more of a BLT. ;)
Tip #3: Get down to food level.
Most people are used to looking at food from the perspective of it being on a table and them being seated at the table looking down. If you really look at food magazines and cookbooks though, you’ll notice the perspective is much more “food in your face”. I like to shoot an an angle slightly above the plate, so I can get a good view of everything that’s going on and capture not only textures, but the height of the food on the plate. You might need to experiment slightly to see which angle works best for what you’re shooting.
(This is a roasted tomato BLT salad with goat cheese, pecans, basil, and balsamic vinegar drizzled over the top. The roasted tomatoes were left over from the sorbet experiment.)
Tip #4: If there is more on the plate than the main subject, use a shallow depth of field
In the above photo, you’ll notice the tomatoes are in focus, but the leafy green stuff in the back is not. That was done on purpose. If there is a lot going on in the composition and multiple things on the plate, or multiple containers on the table, try setting a shallow depth of field with a wide open aperture (the smaller numbers). Pick a visually interesting spot on the plate, or select the main food that you want to be the focus of your post.
For example, I made some delicious gluten free chocolate chip cookies, but they were kind of plain looking when alone on the plate. I added a glass of nut milk (no dairy for me either!) to the background to give it the more familiar feel of “milk and cookies”, but when it was all in focus, it was a little busy, and the focus wasn’t just on the cookies. Changing the depth of field to put the cookies into focus and blur out the rest really drives the point home that the picture is all about the cookies.
Tip #5: Crop in close to the food.
Cropping the photos close to the food gives it that larger than life feeling that helps the viewer to further focus in on it. Try to frame it so the important pieces take up most of the real estate in the photo. Ideally, you want minimal background in the photo, so as not to distract from the food and the plating. Remember that plating can be part of the artwork just as much as the food can.
(This is an Asian noodle soup that I made in my crock pot)
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! If the soup photo is making you hungry, here is the recipe as an added bonus:
Shiitake Mushroom Crock Pot Soup
* cover bottom of large crock pot with dried shiitake mushrooms, broken into bite sized pieces.
* thinly slice 4 carrots and toss in
* slice 4-5 scallion stalks and toss in
* smash and chop about 6 cloves of garlic and toss in
* cover all that with a layer of dried rice noodles
* cover it all with water (crock pot should be maybe 4/5 full) and simmer for a few hours
* toss in about a teaspoon of black pepper
* toss in about 2 tsp of sea salt
Set the crock pot to high for 2-3 hours and forget about it. When it’s done, sample the broth, and if you find it tastes bland, sprinkle and mix in a bit more salt until you think it’s right and the flavors make your mouth happy. :)
Friday, May 18, 2012
Last weekend, I had an amazingly awesome time photographing an Orlando performer named Ivy Les Vixens. She loves what she does, and is always pleasant to converse with. Seriously, she’s one of the happiest people I’ve ever met. She has an entire closet devoted to her amazing costumes, and is always dreaming up and creating new ideas. The world would be a better place if everyone valued happiness and creativity so much.
I took so many photos that I am still editing, and selecting the best ones, but here are some of my favorites so far. I am particularly fond of the first one. I just adore old pin up art. I think it inspires a lot of my work recently.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
I’ve been having a lot of fun doing portrait sessions recently, so I thought it would be a good idea to put together a tutorial about retouching portraits using the features that are already built into Lightroom (and they are awesome, by the way).
One of the reasons why I prefer to process my photos almost exclusively in Lightroom over Photoshop is that I don’t need to build any custom brushes for standard things like softening skin, whitening teeth, and enhancing irises. These already come standard with Lightroom. I still do make some of my own brushes for other things though, like making lip color a bit more bold, and enhancing different hair colors.
In today’s tutorial, I’ll show you how to use the ones that are already built in, and how to make your own.
First, I’d like to introduce you to a lovely lady named Eveleena, who was a blast to work with (her blog is a hoot too - check it out). Hers is the face I will be using in this tutorial.
This is the original untouched image, straight out of the camera (SOOC).
Lightroom Brush Effects
The first thing you’ll need to know are where to find the brushes in Lightroom. If you’re using Lightroom 3 and above, these pre-defined retouch brushes will be there for you already. If you aren’t, you’ll have to create them yourself. Right along the top. there are some icons for handy tools. The one that looks like a brush, highlighted in the image below, is the one that you’ll want to click on. When you click it, you will see the panel expand, as shown in the image here.
If you click on the text next to “Effect”, you can select a new brush type to use or choose to save your current adjustments as a new brush. The sliders allow you to adjust exposure, brightness, contrast, saturation, clarity, sharpness, and color. Yes, it really is that easy!
Before we start with the actual editing, here is a quick primer on what the brush settings are used for.
Size controls how big or small the brush is. The square brackets on your keyboard - [ ] - function as hot keys for quickly increasing or decreasing the brush size.
Feather is used to soften the edges with a gradual blurring effect. I personally like to have a little feathering on the edge of my brush most of the time, so the effects blend into the rest of the photo nicer. A harsh brush stroke with no feathering can be very noticeable, but sometimes the harsh edge is appropriate, depending on the detail work you are doing.
Flow and Density were really best explained by a great post in the Adobe blog back in July of last year.
When using the Adjustment brush, the Flow sets speed of the adjustment made when painting. For example, if you set the Exposure slider to +2 and then set the Flow down to 25 and paint in the image, you will notice that it takes a longer to build up that +2 stops than if you had left the Flow setting at 100 (eventually though, it will get there). A low Flow setting can help when trying to slowly dodge and burn in an area of an image.
The Density slider caps amount of change that can be applied with a paint stroke. If you set the Exposure slider to +2 and then set the Density down to 50, no matter how long you paint, you will never get more of a change than 1/2 of the +2 (or +1 stop). At first I thought why not just reduce the slider to cap the maximum amount, but then I realized that I can set the sliders at the highest point I need for the image, then prevent overdoing the adjustment by setting the density slider to cap the adjustment in certain areas.
The amounts of each setting are really up to you, and will be based on your personal preference and the condition of the photos you start working with.
On to the fun stuff… let’s edit this picture already!
When I do professional portraits, I always soften up the skin. Why? Because realistically, when you stand far enough from someone to not be in their “personal space”, you aren’t going to see all the fine details and pores that the camera picks up when zoomed in like you were standing only a few inches away. Plus, most people like that soft magazine look. It’s just pleasant to look at. The amount that you choose to soften and adjust is completely up to you.
My recommendation is to just do the fleshy areas. Do not soften lips, teeth, eyebrows, or eyes. I also don’t like to soften eyelids if the makeup is done well. When a nice skin softening effect is applied, it can really serve to enhance a good make up job too, as we see here. If you have any stray hairs, I recommend you go ahead and apply the softening brush over those too. Many times, softening skin will eliminate small blemishes all together, making spot touch ups unnecessary or much easier at the end.
Here is what the photo looks like with the skin softening effect applied. It’s very subtle, so this picture still looks natural.
Lightroom also provides you with a dot to mark where the first brush stroke is. If you hover over it, a mask of all your brush strokes will appear, so you can make sure you included everything you intended to. Notice that it doesn’t always have to be perfect to get a nice look on the photo.
I think I want to soften it just a little bit more though, so I’m going to click “New” at the top of the panel, and keep that skin softening brush selected, but I’m also going to move the “Sharpness” slider down all the way to the end. The effect name should now say “Custom” because you have defined your own. At this point, you can save it if you want to.
This time, I’m only going to paint the most porous areas of the face. When using a blurring tool, you don’t want to paint on the crevices and fine details, like nostrils, or the edges of noses and ears. At that point, the photo looks unnatural. You can paint over the stray hairs though.
Look what we have now… nice smooth skin. You can adjust the effect to your liking and use more or less, depending on how much you would like to apply.
Spot Removal Tool
Lucky me, Eveleena has no blemishes! She does, however, have some rogue specs of glitter on her face! That stuff gets everywhere. Plus, the girl is practically made of glitter! ;) So, let’s use the spot removal tool to get rid of that.
When doing spot retouching in Lightroom, I like to zoom in as close as possible, so I can make my brush as small as possible, while still covering the spots.
Spot Removal has two modes - clone and heal. Clone copies pixels exactly, while heal copies texture, but borrows surrounding color and tone from the destination for better blending. I really like using the heal option for this reason, but there are situations where clone will sometimes work better.
This tool is pretty easy to use in Lightroom. Simply click on the spot you want to fix, and with your mouse button still held down, drag your mouse to the area that you want to select from. Lightroom will give you a preview of what your spot will look like as you drag the mouse. You will see these two areas represented as circles over your photo with an arrow pointing from the sampled spot to the spot you’d like to cover up, as shown below.
Look at that, the glitter is gone!
The same technique can be used to hide some of those dark strands of hair on the cheek. For this, I used much larger samples, and a much lighter opacity. It didn’t take much to hide them. You can even use an area that has already been repaired as the sample area for a new fix, which is what I did in this instance.
This is much better. It’s not completely gone, but it’s much less distracting. Sometimes, you don’t want it to be “too perfect”, just nice enough that the viewer is able to focus on what’s important.
There are a few really important things to pay attention to regarding eyes in a nice portrait: no red eye, nice clear and bright irises, and no veins. The latter two give the appearance of a healthy and well-rested individual. If you take your photo with the right lighting, red eye won’t be a problem either.
So, let’s look at the iris enhance brush first. It turns up saturation and clarity a lot, and exposure just slightly. This makes eye color pop with a richer and bolder color, crisper lines, and a slightly brighter appearance.
Here is what the panel looks like:
Here is a zoom in on the eye before the brush is applied:
Now, all you have to do is increase your brush size to match the iris, click once, and then use the eraser to clean up any that gets onto the eye lid, and your eyes are instantly more radiant!
Next, we have to get rid of those veins. I created a brush to do this, and I’ll share the settings with you here. It basically turns down the saturation on the red, and then softens the harsh veiny lines the same way that we do with skin, and then brightens and whitens. At 100% flow and density, this will probably be a bit too strong for most applications.
I suggest leaving the density at 100%, but turning the flow down to 25% or 50% and layering it on as needed, depending on the lighting. You’ll know when it looks right. I also think it’s much easier to paint it on kind of messy rather than trying to get into the cracks and crevices, then go back with the eraser and do a quick swipe around the shape of the eye, and one click erasing on the iris.
Here is the eye with the brush applied.
…And here is where we are at with our portrait so far:
The last thing I’d like to do on this portrait is make the black hair pop a little bit more since it’s against a black background. I made a brush for that too! It boosts the exposure and contrast to make it a bit brighter, and increases clarity and sharpness to bring more focus to those highlights and individual strands of hair.
I turned the flow down for this application to apply it at only half strength. This allowed me to paint a little more or less on in areas where needed.
Finally, I’ll apply a few small global adjustments to this photo, to get it to my liking. Overall, I’d like some of the details to be a bit more clear, so I tapped down clarity and black levels just a bit.
Here is the finished result:
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and found it to be useful!