July 31, 2012

My Workflow—Part 2

While attending his workshop, Jay Maisel said:  “If it does not add to the story then it takes away from the story.  Include only what is essential in your photos.” 
Jay believes in getting it right in the camera so almost all of his photos that you see are not cropped.  They are as he shot them.  I believe Jay is absolutely right but I lack his talent of “getting it right” in the camera.  Besides that, I think that some images just look best at ratios other than the normal 3:2 or 5:4 ratios that my camera allow me to capture.  So, I do crop my images to the format that I feel best suits them.
After I import the image, my first step is to crop the photo into the format that I believe shows only the things that “add to the story.”
In this photo, my subject is:  the details in the flower, the starburst and the bokeh.  I cropped the top, bottom and right sides of the image so that I had symmetry between the top and bottom right corners.  The corners are not important however I think including about the same amount of leaf in both corners helps anchor the flower.  I know some people will be bothered by me cutting off parts of the flower but do you know what it is even after I cut parts of it off and is there enough of the flower left to show-off the details in it.  I believe there is.  Finally, I cropped the right side of the photo so that the bottom leaf was complete.

Camera settings:  Nikon D4, 70-200mm f/2.8 at 90mm, ISO 1600, f/19 at 1/60th of a second on a tripod.
Post Processing:  
Lightroom 4—see above.

July 27, 2012

My Workflow—Part 1

A few weeks ago, my friend, Doug, from the Bay Area Photo Club, asked me how I go about processing my photos.  Rather than try to tell him in words (the old problem of trying to accurately writing instructions of how you would go about sharpening a pencil), I decided to show him my basic processing on a given photo.
This photo, to me, is about three things:  the details in the flower, the starburst of the sun and the bokeh.  To get a good starburst, you must use a small aperture—here, I chose f/19.  This aperture would also make my bokeh-circles very small. I though that this combination would look pretty cool.
I shoot in RAW about 99.99999999999% of the time.  I do this because I feel that it provides me with the best file to develop the photos into the image that I want.  The image that you see on the back of your camera will not look like the one you open-up in your RAW processing program unless you do some basic processing of the file. 
Why is that?  Because what you see on the back of your camera is actually a JPEG image that is embedded within the RAW file.  The JPEG image that has been processed in accordance with the “Picture Control” (Nikon’s term; not sure what other manufacturers call it) that you selected in your camera.  Nikon has six Picture Control settings: Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait and Vivid.  Based upon which one you select, the photo displayed on the back of your camera will show varying amounts of: sharpening, contrast, brightness, saturation and hue.
I do not believe in redoing things over and over.  I also like things to as consistent and easy as possible. As a result, I have developed a series of Lightroom presets for each of the Nikon Picture Control settings.  Before I start to shoot, I select the Nikon Picture Control Setting that I believe will produce images that are most consistent with what I want.  I rarely change this setting during any shooting session. 
As I import my photos into Lightroom, I apply the appropriate preset to the photos.  What does this do?  Well, it makes my photo look very much like what I was seeing on the back of my camera as I was shooting.
How did I develop the various presets?  First, I took photos that used the different Nikon Picture Control Settings in both JPEG and RAW.  I then imported the photos into Lightroom.  Next, I applied Lightroom’s Camera Profile (you will find it in the Develop Module under Camera Calibration tab) to the RAW file.  I then tweaked the sharpening, contrast and saturation of the RAW until it matched the JPEG file.  Finally, I saved the settings for sharpening, contrast, saturation and Camera profile as a preset for that Nikon Picture Control Settings.
The first photo today shows the RAW file as it would look without applying any preset to it.  The image is basically flat and definitely not what you were seeing on the back of your camera. 

The second photo shows what the image would look after applying my Nikon Camera Standard Control Setting preset.  Notice how the colors are richer and there is generally more details throughout the photo.

Camera settings:  Nikon D4, 70-200mm f/2.8 at 90mm, ISO 1600, f/19 at 1/60th of a second on a tripod.
Post Processing:  
Lightroom 4—see above.

July 24, 2012

Nike Look

Several years ago, Nike had a series of advertisements in which they presented various athletes with a look somewhat similar to Joel Grimes work.   That look was what I wanted when I took this photo.
Casey’s look tells the whole story—I am an athlete and I love competing!
Camera settings:  Nikon D800, 24-70mm f/2.8 at 70mm, ISO 140, f/6.7 at 1/45th of a second with an Elinchrom Ring flash to the right.
Post Processing:  
Lightroom 4—set white and black point and increased contrast, increased clarity and added a vignette.
Photoshop CS5—applied nik Color Efex Pro Bleached By-Pass filter.

July 17, 2012

MIA Is Back

Several people have asked why I have not been posting to my blog.  One even labeled me as MIA.  Well, she was correct.  I was missing in action with absolutely no reason.
Yes, I was a little busy with my photographic business, my grandchildren, Bay Area Photo Club and this and that.  But, I did have the time; I just decided to do other things.

Today’s photo is a continuation of the session we had with Casey.  In this photo, I wanted to isolate on Casey’s face but still give the photos some context.  I deliberately placed Casey in the center of the frame—damn the rules!  I used a spot meter on her face for my meter-reading which because of the light hitting her face, slightly underexposed the rest of the frame.  The light on her face was from the setting sun and because the rest of the pool was in the shade gave me a warm Casey against a cool background.  I think this helps isolate her.  Finally, I used a very low camera angle (my camera was almost touching the water) so the lane dividers would stack in the background.
Camera settings:  Nikon D4, 70-200mm at 200mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/5.6 at 1/1500th of a second.
Post Processing:  
Lightroom 4—set white and black point and increased contrast, increased clarity, contrast and sharpness on Casey with the adjustment brush and added a vignette.