Make Shift Reflector

Poster board + masking tape + aluminum foil = make shift reflector
None of these image have been modified

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Here’s the before and after shots using light from north facing window:

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No reflector

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With reflector

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Remove a stray hair from photo

In small areas, use the heal or patch tool (depending on your photo editing software) to select areas you want to fix and clone. I have found using the tool in smaller areas produce less patchy results:

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Original Image – No Edits

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Stray hair removed

If you’re interested,  you can see the final result with saturation turned up and surface cleaned up here: http://galleries.soft-graphix.com/colored-cubes

What I Learned Doing My 1st Photo Challenge

Over the weekend I entered a photo challenge titled “artificial light”. This was the first photography challenge I’ve entered and at first I was very pleased with what results I was able to present; however, the more I look at it the more I second guess some of the decisions I’ve made. This post is dedicated to that experience and what I’ve learned in the process.

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This was my entry – I wish I had less exposure & changed the angle of the camera so the corner of the table was not visible.

My first camera was a Canon AE-1 that I bought in college many moons ago. The price tag at that time: $500.00.  There is something powerful about capturing an image only from a view finder and then developing pictures in a dark room by placing sheets into a chemical bath. While I may not make it sound all that romantic, the outcome was always awe-inspiring – partly because, as the photographer, you were finally presented with the outcome of your art. I know I’m rambling, but my point was that you captured that image looking through a view finder and basically cropping, framing, angling and capturing the light content right then and there. We didn’t have photo editing software to nit-pick the imperfections out (though we could control how long we allowed the negative to expose on the sheet and also crop the image). This forced us as students to become very conscious of what we were looking at and how the camera was interpreting it.

As life continued on for me, I put my camera aside for many years – only pulling it out when I had an extra $20 to spend on film and developing said film. Then digital cameras became the go-to (and I’m not complaining; cost-wise & ease of use, I love what the digital cameras have brought to the table). Looking back at my experience with the two different technologies and joining that photo challenge opened my eyes to the fact that I’ve been treating my personal digital photo taking adventure poorly. I look at the small screen on the back of my point-and-shoot, click the button and [usually] edit my digital photo. By no means is this a bad or wrong way to go about it,  but the recent challenge presented a problem if that’s the way I’ve been doing things (unless of course I’ve misinterpreted the rules of the challenge). Upload unedited, raw images straight from the camera.

The benefits of these restraints from the eyes of an amateur photographer:

You need to compose in the shot. Your whole thought process changes when you can only upload one photo, and that photo may not have any edits. I began thinking of what I could shoot that entailed ‘artificial light’. When I finally decided to do a photo shoot of a board game I set up the game and started playing by myself just to get pieces out organically. I placed this cheap drafting / table lamp I had on the table. The original idea was to get the whole lamp in the shot so you could see the neck of it angled, hopefully centered over the board game. Behind it I placed a cheap white form board that we had bought for a school project some time ago, though never used. As I playing with positioning my camera it became apparent that that shot I WANTED was not going to happen because the board was too small to get the whole image without the wall and window blinds peaking out from behind it.

You need to get creative, even if your first idea starts falling apart before it ever happens. So I had easily sunken an hour into playing this board game by myself and setting up the equipment, I wasn’t going to just pack everything back up because idea #1 was not going smoothly. As I continued to play with the composition and camera position I noticed the lamps figure produced a shadow that bounced off the backdrop board – so I tried using that instead. After that first shot I tried playing with the camera settings to achieve different effects.

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You can see the shadow of the lamp in this image. Originally I wanted the board centered in the image with the lamp off to the right and other game pieces on the left to balance it. The board was too small – you could see my walls & blinds when I zoomed out to get it.

With a new found enthusiasm I continued taking pictures; zoomed in and out of the subject, re-positioned the tripod, placed the camera on the table and back on the tripod again. It was actually very enjoyable. The goal was to take a picture that would not be edited in anyway other than camera settings. This forced me to rethink the way I’ve been taking pictures.  I’m not saying that many digital photographers skip this step, I’m saying that I have been skipping this vital step basically since I put my Canon AE-1 in the desk drawer. If you are interested in photography and are an amateur like myself, I highly recommend entering into challenges where your file is your submission – you might find it as helpful and exciting as I did.

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Promising Accidents

Here’s a challenge for you:

Find a location to take some shots; however, take two shots: one of clear view of your subject and one with obstacles in the way to frame your subject. Here’s a couple of shots from the same location:

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First shot, not minding my whereabouts.

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Second shot: Trying to get a cleaner shot of the sun rise.

These have not gone through post production and they are not the most refined images I have taken, but this little photo accident produced a nice outcome by framing the sun rise.

 

Experimenting with light

This is a series or photos where the only dynamic was the lamp placement and the cameras allowance to automatically decide the f-stop; the shutter speed, iso, manual focus, placement of objects to be photographed as well as the placement of the camera remained stagnant. Non of these photos have been edited yet and I didn’t realize until today that my lens is dirty! Either way, I’m going to try to work with what I got and by this weekend I’ll have [some of] these on the gallery page of soft-graphix.com for others to see and use.

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Light source (LED desk lamp that can be adjusted) is pointing toward the ceiling. Two white film boards act as the back drop and also allow light to reflect back onto the aloe plant and army toy.

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Light source stayed in about the same position, though the lamp was adjusted downward – facing the white film board backdrop and positioned left of the plant & toy figure.

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Light source placed close and facing subject from right.

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light source moved to the front and right – pointed toward white film backdrop and tilted up.

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light source pointing down on the subject

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light source pointing down and close to subject. I imagined summer at high noon with this position.

Easy fall design layout

A fall design layout, and I’ll show you what I did to make it:

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fall design layout

First lets find a background image I choose this one from my image gallery:

Second, I followed this tutorial to create the bokeh effect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hO2h7L-LV9A

This gave me a great background to work with and something to showcase in the foreground (a leaf in this case). I took the following pictures:

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Using the pen tool, outline the leaf to cut it out from it’s background. I also upped the saturation of the leaf slightly, blurred the edges and brought the opacity of the background down to make more contrast.

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With the wood railing that the leaf sits on in the final piece, cut along the edge paying attention to your line work and any chipping paint. The board, although it appears straight, has a bow in it. Once the siding in the background of the railing was removed a slight blur was added to try and soften that line.

Place the leaf on the railing, which will need rotated – to create the shadow I added a new layer under the leaf (above the cut railing) and used the brush with a 0% hardness tip to ‘paint’ the shadow of the leaf. I chose a deep auburn instead of black, if light would come though the thin skin of the leaf, it would take on a shade of that color.

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Layers:
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finish.

 

Photo A Day & Toledo Casino Night Charity Event Update

Updates since last post:

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Photo A Day Challenge: One step at a time

Photo A Day Challenge
Been able to make it to day 5 so far: http://galleries.soft-graphix.com/

More info on charity event
I’ve been helping my sons high school parent staff association with a casino night in Toledo charity event. If you are in the Toledo, OH area and you are interested, more information can be found here: http://itstartslocal.com/