Thursday, February 19, 2015

Divine Black and White Portraits

As a portrait photographer, I never turn my portraits to
black and white!
That's because I ADORE color!
Plus, I don't like when the skin tones turn gray and muddy.
I have tried many techniques and actions to find a black and white
that I like, but it never happened until NOW!
Rita at CoffeeShop Blog has finally developed
the perfect Black and White action for my portraits.
It's called Gossamer Wings and you can read all about it
plus download the action from her great blog  HERE.
I finally get the whiter skin tones.
Watch my video tutorial on how to adjust
Rita's action in Photoshop or PSE:
I really like the peachy-pink color in the original photos:
 I tried moving the black and white slider on the action
to the left and a hint of gorgeous color blushed through into the photo.
 I think it looks SO beautiful and vintage!

And, just so I don't totally miss color in a black and white portrait,
I created five Pastel Haze Overlays to use over
black and white photos to add a
glimmer of color.
To download the Pastel Haze Overlays CLICK HERE
These overlays are transparent.
In Photoshop or PSE, use the Gossamer Wings Action
to change a photo to Black and White.
Click File then Place and navigate to the
pastel overlay you want to use and click on it.
Stretch the overlay over your photo.
You can lower the opacity if you want.
I like to create a layer mask and remove some
of the overlay from the subject.
(Or just use the eraser tool.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Creating Movement in Portraits

I'm so embarrassed to post these first two portraits, but these are from
my FIRST portrait shoot EVER!  I had been learning photography for about a year
and was bored with landscape and flower photos.

I longed to shoot portraits, but they seemed so complicated.

This was my first feeble attempt at posing my lovely daughter Lindsay.
We took the little bench prop to a nearby park and I had no idea how to pose her.

This is very typical of portraits I see online...the subject sits or stands
and smiles at the camera.

I knew these early portraits of mine were BORING!

I couldn't even think up any good poses!

I studied poses online,
but when we were out for a photo shoot,
I couldn't remember ANY!

I continued to photograph my daughter and continued to get
BORING portraits


One day, it was REAL WINDY!

Dang it, wind! STOP BLOWING!  I'm trying to practice here!


This windy day is when my portraits changed FOREVER!

These photos in the wind were ALIVE!

They were magical with movement and spunk!
 Lindsay wasn't just standing there smiling...she was moving
and reacting to the wind!

I still use this next photo on my business cards:

After this windy day...I made it my mission to
CREATE MOVEMENT in my portraits.

Yes, I still get a few of her sitting pretty...
but compare this shot, which IS lovely...

to the vitality of this next shot:

Her dress and hair fluttering shows




I actually look for clothing at thrift stores
that will MOVE.

When I found this yellow top...I KNEW it would flow
out like that when my subject jumped!

Seriously, the posed photo on the left is lovely...
but which one makes you stare and study every detail of the photo?
Which photo would you want hanging on your wall
because you would never get tired of looking at it???

Which one is ART and which is the snapshot?

I constantly challenge myself to

Running is a great way to create movement.

Any motion in the clothing or hair
will bring life to a portrait.

I did this photo shoot with six-year-old Bella this winter.
  She was just standing in this photo, but
I asked her to swirl a bit to give her coat some movement.

It was cold outside, but I still took the time
to set my camera for shooting MOVEMENT.

This may seem complicated, but once you take the time to
learn and understand how to set your will
LOVE photographing with movement!

This is how to set your DSLR camera to shoot motion.

First, you MUST learn and understand how to use Focus Points on your camera.
This is different for every camera, so take the time to sit
with your manual and learn how to use focus points.  It will tremendously
 improve your portrait work. 
 I rarely have a portrait out of focus using Focus Points!


Next, set your camera's auto focus (AF) mode on Al-Servo. Read your
own camera manual to learn how to do this with your camera.

As you aim your focus point at your subject's face, Al Servo
will refocus continuously as the subject moves.

This is a great mode to shoot sports!

Next, set your Drive Mode to High Speed Continuous.

In this mode, you can hold your finger down on the shutter
and it will rapidly take a burst of multiple photos in a row.
You may be limited by the size of your memory card
or amount of battery left.

I use a 16 GB memory card.

Of course, set your camera for proper exposure, also.

With my camera set...I had Bella stand with her back towards me.

I placed myself where I could get all of her body in the shot.

I clicked halfway down and using my focus point, I
grabbed focus on her head then had Bella twirl around.

As she began to twirl, I held down on the shutter and multiple shots
were fired capturing a variety of moments in her twirl:

Not all of them will be worthy.  Sometimes, I have the
subject repeat the twirl or run several times.

I always check to see if I got any that I like.

I usually hold these "movement" shots until the end of my
portrait shoot because they do require lots of battery and space on your
memory card...especially if you're shooting in RAW as I always do!

If you are new to photography...I know this sounds a bit overwhelming.
But it's worth it to push yourself beyond your comfort zone
to learn this particular technique.

After you have practiced several times, you will understand
how to do it.

This is the technique that changed my portrait work DRAMATICALLY!

Another form of movement is natural facial expression.

In other words, NOT a pose at all...just capturing what
is naturally happening.

When Bella scooped up her kitty, I snapped away
because her natural love was glowing!

A great big, natural laugh is better than a posed smile.

I just ask the person to "Laugh as big as you can!"

Challenge yourself to go beyond the boring people shots
and create some MEMORABLE portraits
with movement and PIZAZZ!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Shooting with Indoor Natural Light

I love VINTAGE and have a running portrait series called
Vintage Val.
I "discovered" her at the hair salon when I was getting my hair cut,
and asked if she would pose for a vintage shoot.
Well, we couldn't stop!  We have been shooting Vintage Val
every season for two years!
This is our winter shoot for 2015.
Shooting indoors with natural light can be intimidating, but
the results can be amazing...and well worth the effort!
This bedroom is PERFECT with two windows.
The one at the head of the bed faces east, the other south.
We did this shoot at 10 am on a cloudy day which created
perfect, soft light!
I also use a reflector if needed to brighten the face.
I always do test shots before Val arrives.
Camera settings will be different for each situation, so by
practicing ahead, you will have an idea of how to set your camera.
I am blessed that my camera, the Canon 5D Mark III, has excellent
ISO capabilities.  I shot these portraits at ISO 500 without noise.
When shooting indoors, I need to raise the ISO enough to keep my
shutter speed FAST so I don't get blur.
This is a common problem shooting indoors where it is darker.
It's tempting to just try to hold it steady with slower shutter speeds,
but that usually creates blur. I want the shutter
at 1/125s at the very least!
  So, just up the ISO...a little noise is better than blur!
Here's a practice selfie in the dressing room:
Once Val arrived, I could place her and really study
where the light was falling on her face.
I know you can play with shadows while shooting indoors,
but I don't like shadows on the face.
That is my personal style.
So I really study the light to make sure she has no shadows.
If she does, I use the reflector.
This day, my photo helpers were not there, so I actually
held the reflector and shot at the same time!
The reflector fills in the shadows with light.
If you like the shadows...that's fine, too!
It's really about shooting what pleases YOU!
The two windows were ideal for lighting.
Notice how she is facing the south window for almost all of my shots.

I rarely use flash, but sometimes it really helps to
brighten up a dark corner.
But I  never use flash directly on a face. 
For faces, I sometimes bounce flash off a reflector or white wall.
I prefer the softness of reflector light.
I only use prime lenses for portrait work.
Because we were in tight confines in this bedroom,
after I got some closer shots with my 50mm 1.4 lens,
I popped on my 20mm prime to get a wider view.
I love to find different perspectives,
like in this next photo, I included the tea set in the foreground.
Shadowy corners, but no shadows on the face.
I stood on a ladder for this next shot.
I am always looking for a unique perspective!
I think these shots from above are my favorite.
Look at that perfect kiss of light from the window.
I love to play with depth of field, too!
Simply shoot with a wide aperture
and the surroundings will blur.
Looking for different angles and perspectives will
take your portrait photography to new levels!
Here I played with the many mirrors in the dressing room.
I hope these tips inspire you to try an indoor shoot.
Take your time to find and use the light
and let your creativity go wild!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Pink Enchantment

My friend Rita came up with this enchanting
method for changing greenery into pinkery in Photoshop or PSE!  See her
tutorial on her CoffeeShop Blog.

Since pink is my favorite color...I HAD to play around
with this clever technique.

It's very quick and easy to achieve this pinky MAGIC!

I found that it works best in photos taken in a grassy or area with
a lot of green.

I think this is perfect for spring!

I posted one of these on Facebook and people were begging me
to tell them where they could find the PINK forest...ha ha!!

Have fun playing around with this technique using photos
you have already taken.

Maybe even try a different color...
just for FUN!