Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas Card

This is our 2009 Christmas card. It was a lot of work, as is most groupings of small kids. I took 54 total shots of this exact pose looking for the right expression on their faces and hoping that I would get lucky and all three would look great all on the same frame. No such luck. There were a lot of images where Alex had his hands up in the air, or over his face as babies often do, and Audrey kept leaning over and kissing her brother, or pulling her dress up. Tyler wouldn't hold still and his movements caused the other boxes to fall over several times. Does this sound like anyone else's experiences trying to photograph their kids? As much as I'd like to claim that mine know better since they are always in front of the camera, I can't. They are just like every other kid I've ever photographed. So how do I get perfect photos of everyone looking and smiling (even a three week old?) PHOTOSHOP! This image is a composite of two different images and about three hours of  work to make them match perfectly. Since there is no shortage of pattern in this image, making everything line up was essential during the shooting process so when I put the two images together in Photoshop it was simply a matter of masking around my baby boy's body and the box he's in and layering it above the photo with Tyler and Audrey both smiling. The best way to do this is to use a tripod and once you have your shot set up and framed as you'd like it, don't move anything! After importing the images to my compuer, matching the color and sharpness in CS4,  I copy and pasted the "good" Alex shot into a new layer, add a layer mask, and begin the painstaking process of making everything match. A good way to do this is to set the opacity of the top layer to 50% and then if move it until the lines match up. If you need, transform the image (remember to keep it in scale) until it's as close as possible. Once I was done blending the two layers together I added a vignette around the edges. This is very simple. Create a elliptical marquee over the image and then feather it by 250 pixels or less if you want a harder edge. Invert the selection so it is selecting the corners and not the middle of the photo. Create a levels adjustment layer and slide the blacks and midtones down until you've reached your desired look. The selection will show up as a mask for the adjustment layer. I painted on the mask to bring back some light around Audrey's face since the mask darkened her hair a little too much.

I've also included another version the same photo and separates of each of the kids we did at the end. Alex did his photos naked yet again, and I just as I went to pick him up he peed all over everything! Good thing I was done shooting.  Notice that the shots below haven't been at all retouched since you can see the inside of the box Audrey is in. DOH!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wedding Albums

Today was insane. I had planned to photograph the kids for my Christmas card but it was a no go. Instead I'm posting the pages from a photo album I designed for one of my favorite weddings this year. Each photo you'll see below is a two page spread. The company I use for my custom album production is Renaissance the Book and their quality is astounding. The customer service is great too. The first image is the front (right side) and back (left side) cover. Books like this one start at $400 so any of you brides out there interested in what you see, give me a call!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

92 and still kickin'!

This holiday weekend my Grandma, affectionately called GeeGee by her 70 some grand children, was over to share Thanksgiving with us and on Friday I had the chance to photograph her in my studio. I know she felt self conscious in front of the camera. She often mentions, " I don't like to get pictures taken since when I see it  [the prints] it reminds how old I look."

I on the other hand love the look of her wrinkles! They are beautiful to photograph. I know we live in a youth obsessed culture, but I still value age and the wisdom that can come with it. As long as I can remember my Grandma has been a personal inspiration to me. Late in her life she took up painting and is a very talented artist. She raised her four children in lets just say, humbling circumstances, endured two less then perfect marriages, all while retaining her positive outlook on life. She never stopped believing in true love and in her 80's finally found it, only to lose him a few years later to illness and medical malpractice.

While her vision and hearing are growing more dim all the time, her love of family, faith in God, and kind heart never fail. If I could be half the woman she is, I would consider my life richly blessed.

I want to publicly thank her for raising my Mother to be the charitable, family centered person she is. My Mom and I don't always see eye to eye, but we do share the same values, most of which my Mother learned from her Mother. This tradition is one I hope to keep with my own daughter. Some day she'll understand what it means to come from a family with a heritage of strong, noble women. I hope she is as grateful as I am for those that have gone before.

Now for you photographers out there, here's some info on the shot. 

Exposure: 1/250 @ f7.1 ISO 200
The key light was for camera left with just a 7 " bell, no grid or diffusion so I could get a more  textural light on her face. The fill light off of camera right was powered down to 1/3, then shot through an umbrella and bounced off the 8' high white ceiling. A hair light was used for separation off the background with a snoot. To make sure there was no light hitting the background, a black reflector was used to block the key light.

Tomorrow: Alex is back from his hiatous and posing for my Christmas card.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Photojournalism: A Thanksgiving in pictures

Today's post is the story of my Thanksgiving. I decided that the best way to capture it would be in the style of a photojournalist. This is the style of photography I use at weddings primarily. Photojournalism is about saying something without words. Telling a story that is honest and insightful. Technical proficiency is required to create great images that also convey a variety of emotions. A photograph becomes more then a snap shot when you can control the light, design the frame, and convey a message about the human experience simultaneously. This ability is what makes a professional photographer an artist in their own right.  And telling stories is the reason I picked up a camera in the first place. So I'm hoping these photos from our Thanksgiving will speak for themselves and share with you the people that I thank God for everyday.

Alexander (my son at 2-1/2 weeks)

Cody (our dog) and Audrey at breakfast

Audrey making rolls for Thanksgiving dinner with me.

 Tyler (left), Caleb (right) and Alex (lower right)

Lego Pirate (left) Tyler (right)

My Father, Terry

 Lyndze, my niece.

 Malorie, my neice.

Left to right: Taylor (Niece), James (Best thing that ever happened to Terice)

Left to right: Katielynn (younger sister), Terice (youngest sister)

(Harry is the only person I know that owns a "Garfield: The Movie" T-shirt and will unashamedly wear it in public.)

Katielynn, Terice, Vonda and Alex

All images were shot with Nikon D300, 16-85mm lens ISO 200. SB900 ans SB 800 speedlights positioned around the room in multiple locations and flash bounced off the ceiling for over all fill. SB900 set to manual full power and SB 800 to TTL +3.0 stops  to create direction and allow for low ISO rating.  Average exposure: 1/80 @ f4.5 .

Turkey for you and turkey for me...

This is my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner this year. We are going to my brother's house for Turkey day and last year I brought the bird, so this year I get the easy job, dinner rolls. Not to be out done, I made them by hand of course and chose to form them into rosettes, so they are as cute as they are tasty. Then, because I think it's important to shoot something every day, I got out my camera and made this little image.

Food photography can be a lot trickier then it looks though, since there are a few basic rules that must be followed.

  1. Make the food look appitizing. If you don't want to eat it when you see the photo, your image is no good. This means clean bright exposures (not over exposed, just light backgrounds) so nothing suggests uncleanliness. We all would prefer our food germ free and light colors (white most especially) is associated with good hygiene. 
  2. Show texture, and color accurately. Size matters too, make it look BIG.
  3. When possible create ambiance with the background. Use ingredients, more of the same dish, or anything else that logically makes sense with your food. (i.e. milk with cookies)
To accomplish these goals most images of food are shot with a wide open aperture, to highlight the texture of food, and blur everything else. This also helps the colors to come together in an inviting way. Additionally most food shots are shown from the perspective of the dish so as to give it prominence within the frame. Truth is that food photography is 90% psychological and 10% technical. More important then showing what the food looks like; a good photograph makes you think about how wonderful it will taste. Examine the first image for a moment, does it not look tempting? Melting butter, knife at the ready, and at least a dozen more where that came from... Admit it, your mouth is watering for the carbohydrated goodness that is the classic dinner roll.

Traditional foods in my opinion are best photographed in a setting that makes one reminisce or pulls on old fashion values.  Ethnic foods (for example Mexican) are best shot with a lot of color, so we think of a variety of flavors and spices. And some may argue (Anheuser-Busch) that alcohol is best photographed with half naked women. I say the jury is still out.

Here are a few things NOT to do:
  1. Show food with a bite taken out of it. No one wants to eat food some one else has already been eating.
  2. Include too much extra stuff. Keep it simple and focus in on the details.
  3. Leave crumbs on anything! Even if your food is naturally crumbly, get rid of them! Messy food is distracting.
  4. Photograph cold foods under hot lights. Talk about a quick way to end a shoot! If you have to shoot foods like ice cream use, a stand in. You can make your own fake ice cream at home, just don't eat it!
The best part of food photography is when you get to eat it afterwards. I have a dozen rolls and 3 dozen cookies in my kitchen because of this blog post. Life couldn't get any better.
In case you were wondering, here is my recipe for the pumpkin chocolate chip cookies shown above. They are the best cookies on earth. It's as if there was a very sugary three way in my cookie jar between an oatmeal, pumpkin, and chocolate chip cookie.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 4 cups unsifted all purpose flour
  • 2 cups quick or old fashion oats
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cup butter or margarine softened
  • 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 can pumpkin (16 oz)
  • 1 package real milk chocolate chips


Preheat over to 350. Combine flour, oats, soda, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Cream butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla until very fluffy and light yellow (5 minutes or more with electric mixer). Alternate adding small amounts of dry ingredients and pumpkin into sugar/butter mixture. Beat after each addition. Stir in chocolate. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 25 minute or until cookies are firm and light brown. Cool on racks.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!