Photography 365: A How to Guide

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Perfecting the Classic Pinup

When I first opened my studio Terice quickly grabbed some good friends, a bunch of vintage clothing, and promptly began photographing 40's style pinups. Her shots are closer to glamor shots then boudoir pinups (which I'm grateful for- not interested in seeing women objectified). I must say that her first solo attempt in the studio turned out some nice images. She used hard spectral lighting sources which matches the lighting style of the era and her posing and composition has a modern sensibility without detracting from the intent. She showed me the photos, I showed her how to avoid some of the pitfalls next time (mainly how to light the while background evenly) and we both moved on.  Time passed and I totally forgot about the session until this morning when I started digging through my archives from last year looking for a photo to use on this blog. Here's what I found.

It's pretty cute, but this blog is about showing how to make something better, so I decided to give the image a tune up.

To get from the unedited version to the classic look of my edit is just a few simple steps.

  • Use the Liquefy filter to create an unrealistic figure. Pinups were not originally photographs. They were drawings for one reason; normal women don't look like Pinups! These days every photo is doctored. No joke. Everyone wants to look better then they really do and the good people at Adobe have made that possible. If you've never used this tool before it's simple. Use the bloat tool to increase bust size and the forward warp tool to slim and reshape curves. (I just vomited in my mouth a little while thinking about the unattainable standards women are held to.)

    • Then I cleaned up the background with the dodge tool. The image is high key so to ensure that I didn't dodge out her skin and hat I used the magic lasso set to 15 tolerance. This preserved the areas I wanted to keep while allowing me to dodge out sections quickly.
      • Once the background was a clean white I dodged out the shadow to make it softer. One thing was still off, she needed to look freakishly tall and leggy. So I used the marquee to select her legs and then used free transform to stretch them out. 
        • The final step was adjusting the color. Using levels to brighten her face while masking out her legs gives her a more consistent lighting pattern.  I wanted a saturated, warm skin tone, as if the image had been shot with Tungsten lights on a daylight balance. I also wanted to add a little bit of that "old drawing" feel. So it was natural to apply one of photoshop's standard filters "water paper" on a duplicate layer. Fiber length was set to 1, brightness 60, and contrast 80. Once the filter applied, I set to the mode to soft light at 78%.

          Here's the final image. I thought about adding some sort of WWII Navy slogan and a vintage paper background but my better judgment prevailed. Next week, a post about Real Women and what I think makes someone naturally beautiful.

          Tuesday, April 6, 2010

          Come for the Coffee, Stay for the Overcast Skies

          Seattle is my home, always will be (if I can help it). I love it here. Coffee shops out number natives two to one. Everyone dresses like they are ready to go hiking at all times. And it rains, more then I care to admit. Yes, when you live in a place where everyone is suffering from seasonal depression, your false god of choice is the sun.

          To this point, today I photographed my son Tyler minutes before the rain began to fall. In any other place common wisdom would suggest that today wasn't the right day to trespass into a secluded car graveyard with preschooler and camera in hand. (Some of you are thinking- it's NEVER a good idea to trespass. You are correct; but I lean towards getting the shot and then asking forgiveness later.) The reason I was so willing to risk rain and hillbilly gun fire was the light. Perfect, seductive, overcast light.

          The combination of high clouds bloated with moisture and the noon day sun makes a celestial soft box that will softy kiss the cheek of any subject and provide delicious saturated colors. Minimal work, I just have to be there. Joe McNally's blog (which I highly recommend) spoke of this back in Feb. As a photographer we wait on the light, we are subject to it's every whim, and love every moment.

          Tyler on the other hand was not so enthusiastic. The clouds and approaching storm meant cool temperatures and wind that he said "hurts my eyes." I bribed him heavily and he smiled about three times.

          The real magic of this photo I think is the shoes. The red pop is really nice and the color on the car is classic. I did however enhance it slightly. This is an easy trick though. Create a layer in photoshop and set it to color mode with about 20-30% opacity. Then chose a deep rich color and paint on your layer. The color will be applied to the image. I made several different color layers with different tonalities and opacities to achive the desired look. The rope was also traffic cone orange in the original image. I toned it down by adding a slight green on one of my color layers. Finally I increased the saturation and contrast slightly, watching carefully to avoid loosing information in the highlights and done! The 24x36 gallery wrap print is already set to be ordered and placed above my fireplace (with the images of his sister and brother of course) in just a few weeks.

          Tuesday, March 30, 2010

          Here a blog, there a blog, everywhere a blog, blog....

          I will be guest blogging this week at so be on the look out. I'll be addressing the trouble some people have properly exposing when the subject is wearing white. After writing a rough draft I decided I needed some specific photos for this post. Then I remembered its time to update my facebook and twitter profile, and I have a super cute white shirt. So one thing led to the other and it became a portrait session for Terice and I. Mind you I take photos of Terice all the time, (she's my muse/assistant).

          Additionally if you are following this blog and haven't checked out my studio's blog now is a great time! Until April 10 you can buy a gift certificate for a future session and 100% of the proceeds will go to support the American Red Cross. This is an extension of the Helping Haiti Through Photography Event we held on March 27th. And if you are tried of hearing about the event know that I WILL NOT stop talking about it until enough money has been raised to meet the goal I set for donations. So donate now even if its for no other reason then to make me shut my big trap.

          Speaking of our charity event, here's some favorites. All of these shots used the same lighting pattern, as shown in the diagram below. I love the soft diffused quality of light, don't you?

          .All shots are at 200 ISO with 1/200 shutter speed and f4-f8 aperture depending on the subject. 

          Thursday, March 25, 2010

          Fruits of the Spirit : Zion Lutheran Pre-K

          My son's Pre-Kindergarten class is contributing the following print to their schools auction. Each child held a fruit representing the fruits of the spirit: faith, love, charity, etc. The image will be printed on canvas and each child will sign their name along the edge.

          Creating this image was simple. We dressed each child in a black coat to create the backdrop.One SB-900 on a stand was positioned above and a little behind the child's sholder so the light would fall on the fruit. I used a scrim (translucent material) to soften the shadows.  Exposure was 1/125 @ f4 ISO 400.

          I then burned the background to a solid black in photoshop before selectively coloring the fruit.

           To create the selective color technique is simple. I created a hue and saturation layer and masked out the fruit. Then using the colorize feature I added 32 hue and 15 saturation to give the skin a slight sepia tone. I hope it sells for a ton of cash to support Zion Lutheran!

          Monday, March 15, 2010

          Pugmire Family Portrait

          I posted some time back that I was working on a composite of a large family in photoshop. In total I photographed 35 members of one extended family. Some were shot as individuals while others were put into groups. Each photo was done on a white background with the following lighting set up. Shots were taken over a series of days to accommodate the schedules of the different families.
          Because of the timing issues I marked the studio floor with duct tape so I could remember the spots where the lights needed to go. I also took careful notes about the power of each light, it's height and my camera settings. Here's how I did it:
          1. I set the background lights at full power with key light -1 stop from full power. 
          2. Exposure is F9 @ 1/250 a second. This had to stay the same for all shots.
          3. Camera has 16-85 mm lens ( I should have used the 50mm to avoid distortion- something I simply forgot to do!) Most of the shots were done at 40mm and a few were at 24mm. This was a huge mistake that cost me a lot of time in post production. (Don't you hate it when you make a dumb mistake like that!) I shot each person individually and in groups so I could have a reference point as to their height and proportion to one another. It was also very important to get shadows on the ground in the photos so no one looked like they were floating in space.
          4. I took over 200 shots (about 10 images per grouping/individual) in different poses. Some on the ground, others standing, then sitting, so I had a wide range of options. I knew the basic outline of what I wanted as a final product and I used the diagrams I drew out prior to shooting to guide how I posed everyone.
          5. Once I had shot all the images it was photoshop time. Each photo had to have the background masked out but the shadows on the floor needed to stay. The white background helped out a lot.
          6. Once the images were all within the same file I placed each photo where I thought it looked best and then adjusted the masks I had already made to fit. 
          7. The last step was to dodge and burn in shadows that matched the studio lighting. If I skipped this step the people would have looked like cardboard cut outs where their body parts overlapped. 
          I am willing to do this again and next time I'll save myself a lot of extra editing by using the right lens. ( I hate correcting for distortion in photoshop, it never quite looks right to me...) I will also try to book all the sessions within the same day so I don't have to reset the lights every time I have another session. Now I just need another large family, any volenteers?

          Tuesday, February 23, 2010

          When an architect marries a lawyer...

          Congratulations to Megan Sheets and Steven McKay married Feb. 20, 2010. Here is one of my favorite photos of them from their portrait sessions.
          We photographed their portraits at the Sculpture Gardens downtown Seattle. It was an amazingly beautiful day for February. Thanks El Nino! While the Eastcoast drowns in snow, I'm watching my flowers in my front yard bloom and laughing in spite of myself.
          Because it was so bright it was important to use the shade side of the red sculptures to subtract the overpowering sunlight and keep the subjects comfortable. No one likes to look directly in the sun!
          The next step was to suspend a translucent medium in front of two sb-800 flash units to create a large soft light source.
          The exposure was then balance between the flash and daylight to keep the city blue sky visible in the background.

          The shapes of the art as well as the shadows they created add a lot to the image.

          More of Megan and Steven's photos will be online in two weeks at Irene Jones Photography Online.

          Please search for Megan and Steven and use password 21366 to log in.

          Tuesday, February 16, 2010

          Supporting the Hatian Releif Effort: Portrait Event!

          I'm a news junkie. I guess I learned that from my Dad. Growing up I watched Dan Rather and pretended I was a correspondent stationed in remote parts of the world reporting on all sorts of world events. Even though I was very young when it happened, I still remember vividly watching footage of the Tiananmen Square Protest on 1989. I couldn't help but feel helpless just watching these events unfold on TV. I wanted to be able to do something but at eight years old my circle of influence was slightly diminished.

          It's been over a month now since the Earthquake leveled most of Haiti. It pains me that while these people are still suffering greatly, and conditions continue to deteriorate, that one of the greatest disasters in my lifetime has nearly fallen out of the news cycle. Our lives go on and our attention spans seem only to last as long as a commercial break.

          I'm not eight years old anymore and I cannot help but feel a strong obligation to give all that I can to help those in need. I am now in a position where I can make a difference and dispel that terrible feeling of helplessness that I remember from my youth. I encourage all of you donate to the organizations on the ground in Haiti such as the red cross, salvation army and other charities with a track record of good works.

          Donating is a great thing, but I also wanted to do more. And short of leaving my young family to go to Haiti myself, I've decided to use the resources available to me here at home to increase the good I can do.

          Saturday March 27th my studio will holding a portrait event. 100% of all proceeds from this event will be donated to the Red Cross.

          Doors will be open between 9am and 6pm on the 27th. Both walk in and scheduled appointments available. Each portrait session will be up to 15 minutes in length and free of charge. Children of all ages, families, and pets are encouraged to attend! Please call and schedule a session for any pets please. Once your session is completed you may choose one of the following print packages for your favorite image.

          Package 1:
          -2 5x7 prints
          -4 wallets

          Package 2:
          -1 8x10 print
          - 2  5x7 prints
          -12 wallets

          Package 3:
          -1 8x10 prints
          -4 5x7 prints
          -5 4x6 prints

          Package 4:
          - 16x20 print
          - 25  4x8 photographic cards

          Package 5:
          - 11x14 print
          -2 8x10 prints
          -10 4x6 prints
          -25 4x8 photographic cards
          $ 175.00

          Add On Prices:
          2 Wallets - $5.00
          1 4x6 - $5.00
          1 5x7 - $10.00
          1 8x10 - $25.00
          1 11x14 - $50.00
          1 16x20 - $100.00
          25 4x8 photographic cards - $20.00

          If you would like to purchase additional prints from your session all photos will be posted at our website Irene Jones Photography Online with in 1 week. Any additional print sales will also be donated to the Red Cross.

          All packages will be available for pick up at our studio on April 3rd, Just in time for Easter! Cash and Check donations preferred but credit card donations also accepted. For more information or to book your session time please call 425.367.4781.

          Our studio is located at 2110 Broadway, Everett WA 98201. Click here for directions.

          If you are unable to attend I encourage you to please visit the Red Cross Website today and donate directly today. View the Red Cross's report on what they are doing in Haiti now.