Black & White Is the Key to Better Color

Lately, I've found a great way to use black and white to improve my color photographs. So, you say, that doesn't make any sense, right? Well, I understand your confusion, but it's really quite simple. What I mean by this, is you can convert your photo temporarily to black and white and perform some editing to make your photographs more appealing in color.

sunbathing.jpg

This is a photo I took at Hanauma Bay in Oahu of a lady sunbathing. It's a nice photo. I'm actually fairly happy with how it turned out. I had taken it a couple of years ago, so I though I'd try reworking it using my black and white trick.

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Learning Photoshop

For more than a year, Photoshop was the bane of my photographic world. I wanted to learn it, but each time I tried, I came away feeling frazzled, inept, and not too bright. I just wanted to master the basics. Perhaps I could learn to remove small distractions from an image or brighten a dark spot. For example, I took a picture of a couple with their dog, and an upturned chair in the background made it appear as if the dog had horns.

Picture before PhotoshopPicture before Photoshop
Many of my friends could use this program, so I began with optimism. First, I took a class. The instructor cheerfully zipped though his list of topics, while I watched, listened, took notes, and tried to follow the steps on my laptop. That didn’t work, though, because while I took notes, I missed details, and while I was trying to find a tool or command, he was often moving on the next topic. I finished the class but recognized that I needed to find another way to learn the program.
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Shooting Outdoors in Wet Weather

While the fainthearted may see grey skies and feel trapped inside, the rest of us need not be stopped by wet weather. Taking pictures in mist and rain can be very satisfying, especially when the rain is light and feet stay dry. Often, grey skies intensify certain colors, while changing others.

I really noticed this last week when I went outside to get my morning paper and saw the pumpkin stand across the street from my house. The pumpkins practically glowed. Luckily, I was only steps from my camera and managed to capture the rich orange.

farmstand in mist

The last few days have been damp and grey where I live. While friends and neighbors bemoan the lack of sun, I happily take advantage of the overcast skies and wet surfaces. I put on my waterproof shoes, grab my slicker, and out I go.

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Workshop at the Ranch

Dave Black has a wonderful website. One of his monthly features is called Workshop at the Ranch. There he gives insightful tips on how to use off-camera flash in creative ways. Although anyone using wireless flash units can benefit from Dave's experience, his series is of particular interest to Nikon shooters using SB-800s and the Nikon Creative Lighting System.

I make it a point to check back each month to learn more from this master of Nikon flash. I particularly like his method of using warm gels with SB-800 Speedlights to create warm subject lighting and a cool blue background. I think it works particularly well for sports portraits, but I've used it for a variety of subjects.

Alicia with Basketball

This is an example using Dave's technique for a Senior Portrait.

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Converting Film Negatives to Digital with ScanDigital.com

NegativesIf you're anything like me, you've probably got a shoebox (or maybe even a slightly more elaborate storage system) full of old negatives from your film days. I've been casually thinking about scanning some of my old negatives and especially the negatives from my wedding to preserve them. Negatives can be stored for decades but I don't store mine in anything near ideal conditions. In theory, digital images can be stored forever (assuming you've got a good backup process in place... you do backup your files, don't you?)

The trouble with scanning negatives is that it's cumbersome and, if you care about the quality, the equipment can be quite expensive. Your average consumer-grade desktop scanner with negative scanning unit will do in a pinch but it won't match anything near the quality or speed of a dedicated negative scanning machine. And you've still got to deal with dust and scratches on the negatives which must be cleaned and inspected and... well, you get the idea. It's a pain.

So I was pleased to hear about a service called ScanDigital.com (www.scandigital.com) which aims to takes all of the hassle and pain out negative scanning.

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