For those that have been following my Flickr stream for any length of time know, I am all over the place in my style. I’ll spend months doing nothing but sunsets, then move onto macro shots, then do some time in portraits or trying to learn strobes. Also, I tend to play all the time with post-processing. Sometimes keeping the shots as true to color as possible – other times going from a simple cross-process to full on HDR. And as much as I like doing different things, all the time, I want to build a style that’s all my own and spend some time to focus on one area – whatever that area may be.
So, I am asking YOU, what area do you see my strength? What style processing? I really want to pick an area and dedicate myself to it for the next few months – giving me direction. Something I need right now.
Examples of my other “styles” I gravitate towards:
I have received a few emails asking how I cross-process my photos, so I figured I’d give you a quick step-by-step guide on how I do this in Photoshop CS5. These techniques will actually work in whatever photo editor you use as the majority of the decent editors have curves. For this tutorial, I took a photo of my daughter, Ashley, with my Nikon D700 and Carl Zeiss Planar T* 1.4/85 lens. The photo was shot in RAW, as always, and imported into Photoshop, as seen below. All these screen shots are quite large, so you can click on them to see the full size versions.
Moving on, I add a curves layer. Curves are used to adjust tonal ranges within an image – from the bright highlights to the deep shadows. When you select curves, you’ll see that the channel selector is on RGB. I like to begin with with the red channel, so click the drop-down menu and highlight the “red” so we can mess around with it. I like to adjust the reds to cool off the shot a bit. Look at the RAW above and you can see the warm tones in her flesh. So, for my adjustments here, I create a gentle “sweep” in the shadows area, dipping the curve deeper into that channel. This cools down my shadows and darkens the reds (notice inside her forearm). Also, I knock back the highlights a tad (notice at the very top of the curve) and then adjust the mid-tones. Think “S” shape when doing the reds.
I next move onto the blue channel and work with those tones. As you can see below, I like the bring the peak highlights down a bit and bump up the shadows. I do not use this as “curve” per se, rather I keep it as a straight line. As you can see, it gives the image an overall blue hue. If you notice the curtains, which are bright, the blues were greatly reduced compared to the RAW and Red Channel mix above. And if you look at the shadows of her face, the blues are increased. Again, this is up to your personal preference and adjust this channel how you like.
Next comes the green channel curve. As you know from above, this is to enhance the tones in this channel alone. I usually love a nice green tint to a cross process (I exaggerated here for an example, below) and in the highlights is where this one shines. So, I am for a bigger “S” for this one, taking the highlights into a big sweeping curve. My darks in this one were ok, so I straightened out the curve 3/4 of the way into it. As you can see, this is now a heavily green tinted image. That’s really it for curves. Once I have them set up this standard way, I go back into each channel, making minor adjustments until the colors are just the flavor I want them to be. For this image, I wanted it a bit more warm, so I went back in and warmed up the reds and blues and took down the greens a notch (you can see the outcome next.)
Now, to really make these curves sing, the trick is to change the layer mode. This is a step that many people miss. I change my curves layer to a color blending mode. Notice what this does in the highlights and shadows by comparing the image above and below (again, you can click to enlarge). You’ll notice the the adjustments we made with the curves are blended much more smooth – taking away the harsh tones – and creating and overall soft feel to the light. This gives you a great idea on your final image, so you may find you need to tweak the curves at this point.
The final touches I make, once my curves are complete, is cleanup. First I will zoom in to 150% and look for stray hairs, blemishes, etc. and clean them out with the Spot Healing Brush. I’ll next add a Brightness & Contrast layer. I like to slide the contrast to the right, usually about 10-15 to to increase the tonal range. Then slide the brightness to the right as well (about 10% on average) to give a little more light in the shadows. The 1.4/85 is sometimes a little soft in the details, so, for this image I added a high pass at 0.8 to bring in some detail in her hair. The only things I do next is a text layer (a signature stamp or a title to the image) and a crop. The crop, in this instance, was 8×10. Really, that’s it. I next save the image and upload to Flickr.
So there you have it. The final image that I uploaded last night. Getting the look and feel of cross-processing is a personal preference. There are no rules on how this should look (you’ll see people claiming that they should be more green, more blue, or what have you – but this is YOUR art). I think it is something you should try out, even if it’s out of your comfort zone. Again, shoot and have fun!
Disney truly is a magical experience. Especially when viewed through the eyes of my kids. I can remember the first time I went there back in 1978 with my parents. Seeing Cinderella’s Castle was a heart pounding experience. And you know what – at 40 years old, it wasn’t any less exciting. Even my 14 year old son was unable to contain his cool demeanor and just smiled ear to ear at the sight of the castle. My daughter was, of course, overjoyed with the whole experience. We spent just 2 days at Disney – visiting all four parks in record time – squeezing out shots where I could (nearly 1,000 of them). I had to make the best of the lighting since the visit was so short. Most of the time was spent in clear blue skies with bight mid-day sun. Not the best of conditions.
To really bring the castle to magic life, I used Photomatix Pro and did a 3-exposure fusion. I wanted to keep it realistic – but have that huge magic spark of life to it. What I really loved about this shot (and wish I caught it better) was the little girl in the foreground. She stood there a really long time, just in awe of the castle.
Sure, I took my fill of family shots at the Disney Parks – almost 600 of them – plus another 300 or so of just landscapes. But I had also set a goal to shoot the art of Disney. What makes it magical in the eyes of children. The bright vibrant color was what really caught my eyes, no matter where you looked. Take the image to the right from Epcot Center. The colors just screamed a good time. And lucky for me and my camera – it was a Spring Flower Exhibit at Epcot that was just amazing – full of vibrant color. I probably took a few hundred shots here, but this one was a favorite of mine.
Also at Disney is some amazing art you can just walk by if you don’t stop to really look. Take the ceiling to the right. This was within the Tomb Warriors exhibit at Epcot – in the China area. Amazing details, color and light. But if you don’t look up, you’d miss it. What was obvious at this display was the replica of China’s Terrecotta Army (below).
Even though they were at about 2/3 scale – you couldn’t help but be in awe at the time and effort that had to go into the actual one in China – with the skilled hands of craftsman for 210 BCE.
As you can see, Epcot / China was a favorite location of mine. I think the majority of my photos were from all around this display. But there is so much more to Disney than this. We traveled to Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom and Epcot. The first day was everything but Epcot. We really cranked through those three parks. One of the coolest scenes was the Expedition Everest ride at Animal Kingdom (below). It was really a breath taking site when this giant peak was poking through the trees on the walk over. Disney is great at making things big and beautiful - and this was no exception. Now only fun to ride the roller coaster – but just beautiful to look at and photograph.
One of the coolest things I remember from 1978 was the monorail. And it’s just so photogenic!! I think I was driving my family nuts with shots of this people mover. Every time one would go by, I’d run with my camera to try and get a “postcard” shot of it. I really wanted it coming over water, but I was never in the right place at the right time. Also got some pretty wicked shots of the “Tron-o-rail” – a monorail car they painted up like the Tron Lifecycles. But I did like this one better, for the vibrant color in the grass, sky and monorail car.
I’ll leave you with just one final shot – one I took of my son (hey, need to be artsy, even with family shots, right?) This was again at Epcot in the Innoventions room. The lightbulb on the wall was just begging for a shot of my boy!!! But it was so dark in there and I had no tripod. Thank goodness for the Nikon D700 low light ability and the Carl Zeiss amazing clarity to hand-hold this sucker.
So, if you get out to Disney, look around and find the art. It’s everywhere – not just with a standard pose with the characters. I found this a photographers paradise – I just wish I planned it out better so I could have taken some sunrise / sunset shots at the park. My timing was way off – but I was able to still get some shots I am pleased with.